2005-12-29 / Obituaries

William Wharton Smith, 93

William Wharton Smith (“Bill”), 93, a retired engineer, philanthropist, and Quaker died quietly in his sleep at his home on Pennsylvania Avenue in the early morning hours of Monday, Dec. 19, 2005.

Mr. Smith came from a long line of early Quaker settlers in New England and the Delaware River valley. His father’s family, prominent in the Philadelphia area, was involved in the founding of Haverford

College, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Smith’s mother, Dorothea Atwater, was a daughter of Richard Mead Atwater, a

prominent glassmaking chemist. Mr. Smith was born on March 1, 1912 in Philadelphia and attended Germantown Friends School and Haverford College (Class of 1934). After graduating from Haverford College, he obtained master’s degrees in chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, and moved into a job designing and producing batteries at Electric Storage Battery Company (Exide) in Philadelphia. He was trusted with international liaison and made many work-related trips to Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. For several years, he managed the former Edison battery plant in West Orange, N.J. Near the end of his career he headed the research division of Exide and became a patent attorney.

Many of his early summers were spent along the shorefront of Newport, where his family had descended from Quaker Thomas Robinson. He learned woodand metal-working from his father, building as a teen a fully working model of a steam boat, and was an avid sailor in Narragansett Bay. He was predeceased by his five siblings, Sarah Anne Greene Smith, Esther Fisher Benson, Anne Hodgkin, Deborah Lutman Paul, and Edward Wanton Smith Jr. All spent many years living in Jamestown and Newport.

In 1943, Mr. Smith married Dorothy Gilpin Waring, a fellow Quaker with family roots in Philadelphia and Jamestown, settling in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Pa. Together they raised four children, all members in Germantown Friends Meeting. The family summered in Jamestown and maintained memberships in the Conanicut Yacht Club and the Dumplings Association. They were avid sailors, owning an original Herreshoff 12 day sailer.

Mr. Smith pursued hobbies passionately, commissioning a 35foot lapstrake mahogany steam launch, then installing an original Navy compound steam engine powered by a steam system of his own design. He salvaged a flagpole from the yacht club broken in a hurricane, repaired it, and installed it in his yard at Hull Cove as a lookout post. The family enjoyed swimming and sailing about the bay.

Mr. Smith’s first wife died in 1969 and he married a second wife, Claire S. Shoemaker, in 1978, divorcing in 1999. He purchased the Pennsylvania Avenue property and retired to Jamestown in 1988, adding a workshop in the back yard where he could often be found building boats or repairing clocks. He maintained a membership in Providence Friends Meeting, and remained very active, swimming, boating, and refurbishing the Jamestown Meetinghouse well into his late 80s.

Bill Smith, who had an easy smile, humble manners, and quiet strength, is survived by his children, Marjorie W. Smith of Shoemakersville, Pa., William W. Smith III, of Jamestown R.I., Robert G. Smith, of Philadelphia, and Daphne F. Stone of Eugene, Ore., and five grandchildren.

Amemorial service will be held in the spring of 2006.

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