FREDERICK JOHN SMITH R.I.P
I remember that Fred confessed to me, “I fell in love with Chile in 1980 on arriving in Valdivia. That dawn, the sky was convulsed with clouds and colors, similar to the palette of an impressionist painter. At that moment I thought, this is where I’ll live.” This moment defines a before and after in Fred’s life, as he decided to become a permanent resident in Chile.
Fred worked as a Natural Resources Economist at Oregon State University. He came to Chile as a guest professor at various universities, among them the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, the Universidad de Concepción, and the Instituto Profesional de Osorno. He traveled the country giving workshops and participating in conferences and seminars; then recruiting students to go on to earn their master’s or doctoral degrees in Corvallis, Oregon, the home of Oregon State University. He helped to form a community of Chileans at Corvallis, where they celebrated September 18 and danced the Chilean traditional dance, cueca. Listening to Los Jaivas’ song “Alturas de Machu Picchu”, based on Neruda’s “Canto General”. Over time, he would also listen to Congreso, Illapu and Inti-Illimani.
Anglatin Ltd. was born, initially, as an immersion program to learn English in Eugene, Springfield. Chilean adolescents and young adults would live in our house for different periods of time. Some attended college and others the English program at Oregon University. They were times of education for the young people, living abroad for the first time and learning another language. Fred, with his natural kindness and patience, corrected grammatical errors while exclaiming “Puchacay”, an expression that he loved for its sound.
Upon retiring from the university, it was Anglatin Travel that gave Fred the opportunity to make use of his teaching skills, work that he loved throughout his life and with which he identified as a person and a professional. Made Vice-President of Anglatin Travel, he took the lead as a technical guide and began to design itineraries in various disciplines such as forestry, viticulture, solar energy, agriculture, and many others. He accompanied groups of professionals, students and business persons from Chile and other places to different destinations, including Slovakia, Australia, and New Zealand. Without a doubt, Chile and Oregon were his favorite destinations, which he got to know both as an expert and a “resident” by choice.
His skills included music. He danced to country music, rock and roll, and cueca. With that sensitive ear of his, he learned to play the charango; of all the stringed instruments that he played, it was his favorite until the end. Despite Parkinson’s, through his tenacity and strength, he was able to capture the harmony that the instrument gave him. Andean music was part of his inner life, his thoughts, and longings. And then there was the Grateful Dead; he laughed when I mentioned a part of their song “A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine.”
I often thought of him as a craftsman. A renaissance man. An artist who uses his hands and mind and places the pieces in the right place. He practiced that calling throughout his life. His goal was always “to make this world a better place.” With his academic knowledge, his experience and philosophy of life, there is no doubt that the fruits of his generosity in sharing his knowledge will continue to bear positive results.
With his affable character, his inner strength, dedication, and respect for life, he managed, for moments, to tame his illness. His frustration tired him and broke his heart and, without fuss of any kind, he withdrew from life as he lived it: sweetly, calmly, and contentedly, because he knew that his life was a life devoted to formal and informal education.
The inveterate traveler leaves his ship and tiptoes to gaze at the stars and constellations.
I only hope that he had a companion in those moments of transition; Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, his favorite for life, to which he awoke when he turned 85, in his house in Concón, Chile.
Consuelo Miranda. Friends and family.