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Published: Sunday, 2/9/2003

Postal clerk ran print shop, farmed

Robert C. Smith, owner of his own printing business and a postal clerk who with his father farmed 100 acres in Sylvania Township until 1959, died of pneumonia Thursday in the Lake Park nursing care facility. He was 84.

Mr. Smith retired in 1986, when he left the U.S. Postal Service after 30 years, most of which were as a window clerk at the Sylvania post office. Also that year, he left the duties of Mohawk Specialties Printing, which he and his wife founded in 1960 and ran out of their home.

Farming with his father, Floyd Smith, was his first job. He left the former Burnham High School after his junior year because his father needed his help with the 100-acre operation, where the family had dairy cows, steer, and hogs and grew corn, wheat, soybeans, and sugar beets.

He liked the independence and work ethic of farming. But he left farming in 1959 when his father retired at 75. It was becoming more difficult to make a living by farming 100 acres, and “he sort of saw the writing on the wall,” son Erik said.

The family had been in the dairy business since the 1850s, first on an Upton Avenue farm before moving to Sylvania-Metamora Road.

Mr. Smith delivered mail on a rural route part time for several years until he left farming. He then walked a mail route in Sylvania before becoming a clerk at the post office.

“For many years he worked the window,” Erik said. “He knew everybody in town.”

Mr. Smith and his wife decided in 1960 that, to supplement his income, they would open a print shop at their home “without knowing the first thing about it,” son Bob said. “They got self-taught real fast.”

Mrs. Smith took care of typesetting and photo duties. Mr. Smith ran the press. The company printed basketball and football programs for many area high schools, catalogs and forms for businesses, and, on occasion, wedding invitations.

“It was like an art form in a way,” Erik said.

Son Bob ran the business its last four years, closing it in 1990.

Mr. Smith was a member of the Sylvania Historical Society and enjoyed spending time at the historical museum.

“He enjoyed reminiscing about old Sylvania,” Bob said. He missed the peace and solitude of what used to be the country. His bittersweet quip about the Sylvania area of today was, “`That's our last crop: We're raising houses,'” Bob said.

The family land, except for the homestead where he and his wife lived, was sold in 1990.

Mr. Smith and his family were charter members of King of Glory Lutheran Church. He was a member of Sylvania Lodge, F&AM.

Surviving are his wife, Else, whom he married March 31, 1951; sons, Erik, Robert A., and Matthew, and four grandchildren.

The body will be in the Reeb Mortuary from 4 to 8:30 p.m. today, with Masonic services at 7:30 tonight in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in King of Glory Lutheran Church.

The family requests tributes to the church.



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