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Navy Veteran Leads Multifaceted Life

by Martin Rand, III, The Brunswick News
special to

Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

But for Bill Smith, life is a bunch of projects.

One project after another has kept his life moving forward.

After Smith, a Navy veteran, was done fighting in World War II, he received a GI Bill grant to attend veterinarian school. He graduated in the early 1950s.

“My first project was getting through school, getting married and raising kids,” said Smith.

After retiring from the veterinarian business in 1985, Smith, a resident of Darien, decided to pursue his childhood dream of being an artist. In the early 1990s, he undertook two new projects: wood carvings and gourd designs.

Smith’s wood carvings of animals mirror their real-life counterparts. One displays a fish that looks like it was freshly caught in the Darien River. Another shows a bird appearing to fly away as it snatches a tiny fish with its long beak.

The carving is complete with the tiny fish inside the bird’s beak, squirming and trying to get free.

“I had to learn how to put more life in them, more curves in them and put more action in them,” said Smith.

Smith’s human wood carvings come in a range of sizes, including one of a Braves pitcher winding up to throw; a bust of his former neighbor Willy, which looks like an ancient greek statue; and an abstract bust of a man who favors Vincent Van Gogh.

Altogether, there are more than 20 carvings in his home.

From a distance, Smith’s gourd designs make the potato-related vegetable look like a ceramic flower pot.

Even though his carvings and designs look like a skilled professional created them, he doesn’t sell them and has never takes a request. He has, however, given a lot of his work to his church for local auctions to raise money for charity.

The first fish carving he donated sold for $300. His gourd designs also sold.

Smith emphasizes that he never started carving and designing to make money.

“That’ll be like work,” said Smith. “I was retired. This was fun for me.”

Smith hasn’t carved any wood or designed a gourd since the late 1990s. At his age, it became too much to handle.

The 90-year-old has moved on to another project, though.

“Right now my project is my yard. I’m trying landscaping,” said Smith. “I’ll always have a project going.”

— Coastal People appears Mondays. Contact Martin Rand III at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 324 to suggest a person for a column. ___

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