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Published: Saturday, 2/26/2005

Printing firm owner drew for enjoyment

Else Smith, 83, who retouched photos for portrait studios and later, with her late husband, Robert, owned a printing company, died Monday in Flower Hospital from complications of a stroke.

She retired from Mohawk Specialties printing company in 1996, when the business closed. Her husband eased away from his duties with the business after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service in the 1980s, and the business was run by their son Bob.

The couple began the business in 1960 at their Sylvania Township home to supplement their income. Mr. Smith left farming when his father retired, went to work for the post office, and ran the press for the printing company.

"She did the typesetting, all the negative work, she did all the artwork. She did the set-up. She made the plates," son Matthew said. "She did pretty much everything but run the press, and she could do that too."

Mohawk printed high school basketball and football programs, catalogs and forms for businesses, and wedding invitations.

"She liked it because it was run out of the house, and she could still take care of us three boys," Matthew said. "She also got to work with her husband."

Her drawings were part of many of the programs printed. She also could use her background: Her father was a portrait studio photographer and, as a teenager, she retouched film and photos and colorized photos.

For her own enjoyment, she drew nature scenes in pencil or pastels.

Mrs. Smith, the daughter of Danish immigrants, was a graduate of the former Burnham High School in Sylvania. She and her husband married March 31, 1951, and she moved to the farm.

"She wasn't a farm girl, but she learned how to get out there and milk the cows and run the tractor and feed the chickens and ducks. She took immediately to it," Matthew said.

Mrs. Smith visited Denmark many times through the years, most recently in 1997.

"She was extremely proud of her Danish heritage, and everything in the house around the holidays had a Danish flair to it," Matthew said.

Her husband died Feb. 6, 2003.

Surviving are her sons, Erik C., Robert A., and Matthew J. Smith, and four grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in King of Glory Lutheran Church, of which she was a charter member. Arrangements are by the Reeb Mortuary, Sylvania.

The family suggests tributes to the church.

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