Monday, August 01, 2011

Kelly Smith (Mulford) 11/22/1949 - 07/27/2011 RIP

Kelly was my cousin. We were very close when we were growing up. He came very close to being my brother, and I have lots of wonderful memories of the stuff we did together.

For my 15Th birthday, I asked my parents to take us up into the Cascades and drop us off at Scatter Creek Campground above Salmon La Sac in Eastern Washington for two weeks. We packed a Boy Scout pup tent a couple of sleeping bags and enough provisions to keep us alive. I made sure to pack butter, corn meal and salt and pepper and a skillet to fry fish in. We survived on oatmeal, dried apples, fish fried up fresh out of the river, and a few scavenged berries. We hiked all over the area, which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Kelly's dad was a world War II Vet. He had been shot through the jaw. They managed to patch his face back together but he was missing part of his tongue, which made his speech slurred. He was a very smart and talented man. He was fiddle-footed, so they moved up and down the coast. Kelly said he could claim no home town, as he had never stayed in one place long enough. One December 10 days before Christmas, Uncle Steve put a 30.06 under his chin and blew his brains all over the wall and ceiling. He left a wife and six kids behind.

Kelly was the second. He was a very talented artist and had started selling his art in his teens. He and I would get together on the weekend and do Beattle Portraits in black and white and sell them for $5 apiece. It kept us in spending money.

When he was a junior in high school, his mother had a massive heart attack and died. I think she was 41.

Six kids orphaned. We spread them out among the family, but my Aunt on Vashon was their legal guardian. Kelly came to live with us. My parents had agreed to adopt Kelly, so he became my almost brother. I clearly remember that Kelly and I and my dad were partitioning off a section of the basement for a bedroom for the two of us when the call came that Kelly would not be joining out family. My Aunt had found a couple that wanted to adopt the kids, but only if they got all six. All or nothing. While on one point this was incredibly generous, the other condition was not. There was to be no contact between then and their relatives. Just like that, he was gone from my life.

After High school, he wandered or several years It was about 10 years later that he got in touch with my Aunt and Uncle on Vashon, and I got his phone number.

He landed in Bellingham, Wa, and became a pivotal figure in the scrimshaw community there. He made his living doing scrimshaw, and was known all over for his incredibly detailed work.

I included a picture of one of my favorite pieces.

We visited back and forth for several years, but eventually he got tired of scrimshaw, and moved to Texas to manage some properties for his step-parents. He did well, bought a house and was involved in the local old-timey music scene. He was a talented fiddle player, also played harmonica, guitar and squeeze box.

When he moved to Texas, we lost contact, but when I set up a Facebook page, I searched for him, and found him. We started corresponding again by e-mail and phone. When he was up here the last time he spent a couple of days with us. We had a great time. I organized a small family reunion on Vashon, and a bunch of us cousins went over there and had a potluck and told outrageous lies.

The last words he said to me in person were "I had a great time. It was like we were all teenagers again."

Last Wednesday he was doing some maintenance on a rental property. He decided to take a smoke break. He went out to his truck and lit up. He had a massive coronary and died on the spot.

So long old friend. I loved you and will remember you for the rest of my life.

Every time I visit Salmon La Sac I will think of you and smile.


Mary Byrne said...

Thank you for posting this bio of Kelly. We were friends when he lived in Bellingham. He was a wonderful artist and musician and a lovely, gentle soul.
Mary Byrne

Dave Z said...

Hi Al,

This is a sad conclusion to a search for Kelly.

I greatly admire his illustrations for THE COMPLETE SAILOR, a work I consider to be among the best of its kind. I was looking for Kelly in hopes that he was working on his Companion the THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS.

Though we never made contact, his work illuminates my life!

Thanks for sharing Kelly's story, and belated condolances.

Fair Winds,

Dave Zeiger