William Clifton Smith, a retired telephone company employee who served as a leader, mentor, and member of the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company for more than a half-century, died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer at the Anne Arundel Medical Center. He was 73 and lived in Arnold.
Mr. Smith was born in Baltimore, and his family moved to Severna Park when he was a child. He graduated from Annapolis High School in 1951 and joined the Army soon after, serving a tour of duty in West Germany.
Upon his return from the service, Mr. Smith started work as a pole climber for C&P Telephone Co. in Annapolis.
It was while working on a pole, hanging lights at a carnival at Earleigh Heights, that he first saw Barbara L. Shiroky, the woman he would eventually marry.
Mrs. Smith said they dated for a year and were engaged for a year before they were married in 1959. They bought a home in Arnold, where they lived for the past 47 years, and raised four daughters. They later bought a vacation home in Ocean City, where their children and grandchildren would often come to visit them.
Mr. Smith worked as a central office repairman until his retirement 14 years ago. He worked for 43 years at the telephone company.
Family members described his dedication to the Anne Arundel County volunteer fire service as a labor of love.
He served the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Co. in Severna Park as chief and as president over different periods in the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Smith held an elected position with the company for more than 40 years, according to a memorial notice on the company's Web site.
His eldest daughter, Kimberly Ann Holloway of Berlin, said it was her father's mission to help maintain the integrity of the company and to keep it "running on its own." She said her father was passionate about the fire service.
"When I was 2 years old, my father had come onto the scene of a fire," Mrs. Holloway recounted. "He put me into the cab of an engine and ran in to fight the fire, leaving the pump operator as my baby sitter."
Because of his long tenure with the company, Mr. Smith influenced generations of firefighters. Michael Robinson, now a division chief with the Baltimore County Fire Department, said that Mr. Smith was a mentor to him and hundreds of other men and women who volunteered over the years.
"He was a good role model within the fire service," Mr. Robinson said. "He showed people the importance of a positive work ethic and always giving 100 percent."
Mr. Smith was an honorary member of the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Co. and belonged to the Assateague Mobile Sportfishermen Association and the Outer Banks Preservation Association.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Barranco & Sons Funeral Home, 495 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park.
In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include three other daughters, Amy Gail Williams of Berlin, and Patricia Lee Smith and Helen Barton Thomas, both of Pasadena; and nine grandchildren.