In memory of Kenneth Smith, our long time and devoted affiliate member whose passion for stained glass is reflected in both the craft itself and the joy that it continues to bring to others.
Written by Ella Dyson and Laurie Smith, grandchildren of Kenneth and Katherine Smith.
If there is one word to describe my grandfather, it would be innovative. Kenneth was a jack of all trades, serving in a wide range of jobs as well as volunteer work such as being a volunteer firefighter to volunteer construction worker under Habitat for Humanity. When he put his mind to something, he could perform any task, especially if it meant helping someone in need.
In his retirement, his focus turned to art. When my grandparents were searching for a home in Seneca, South Carolina, they landed on one with a workshop on the property. He worked as a woodcarver, basket weaver, furniture craftsman, and a stained glass craftsman. While he was an artist his entire life, I believe that his mastery of stained glass was the antithesis of his creations. He would use his woodworking skills to assist him in this, making his own tools to perfect his designs and pieces. Not only were the pieces he made aesthetically beautiful, but mathematically sound. As a former engineer, his skill and commitment to geometric perfection transferred to, if not fueled, his dedication to stained glass designs. Symmetry and perfect circles were the essence of his works. This is most especially represented in his stained glass mosaics. As shown in the photos, the measurements are perfect.
My grandfather's commitment to his work was tied to who he was in spirit. He was a man who always did what made him happy. He took jobs that wouldn’t leave him sitting at a desk, that helped others and challenged his mind. Ken never took money for any piece he gave to another, and hardly ever created something he was asked to create. His art was about making himself happy, only committed to the art that would bring himself and his loved one's joy.
Ken passed away from complications of old age last November. It was a long process in which every step took a huge toll on him and his loved ones. One of the most unfortunate parts of his passing came very early, in the beginning stages of his turn towards poor health. This was when one of his health issues began to lock up his hands, causing great pain in his fingers. With this, he could no longer create in the way he was used to. His talent that allowed him to create such beautiful works could no longer be executed. As creation was his drive, I personally believe this is why his health took a turn for the worst as soon as they did.
While I have wished every day since his death that I could spend more time with my grandpa, Ken Smith lived a completely full and wonderful life. He spent sixty years of marriage to his soulmate, who he had known since childhood. He had four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He loved his family very much and lived his life in service to the ones he cared for.
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