Henry Evans 'Ev' Smith Jr. dies at 91

Mortgage banker and avid theatergoer was also an accomplished gardener

August 27, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Henry Evans "Ev" Smith Jr., a retired mortgage banker and decorated World War II naval aviator, died Aug. 21 of bladder and kidney cancer at his longtime Roland Park home.

He was 91.

Mr. Smith, the son of a candy salesman and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park.

After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1938, he enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University, where he played lacrosse and was a member of the undefeated 1941 team, and earned a bachelor's degree the next year in business.

In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy and, after receiving his flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas, was commissioned a lieutenant.

Mr. Smith was assigned as a dive-bomber and fighter pilot aboard the carriers USS Wasp and USS Saratoga in the Pacific.

He first saw action as a dive-bomber pilot while assigned to the Wasp during the Marshall and Gilbert islands campaign and later in 1942 during the Battle of Midway, considered one of the most significant naval engagements of the war.

"From there he was involved in the bombing of Guam and Palau, and then in the great battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, which involved attacks on the Japanese fleet as it passed through," said a son, Dr. Evans Lansing Smith of Santa Barbara, Calif., a college English professor.

"It was during these battles that he earned his Navy Cross after having sunk a Japanese ship with one of his dive bombs," his son said.

In 1944, as a member of Bombing Squad 14, Mr. Smith's flight log showed that he had participated in bombing missions against Marcus Island, Wake Island, Iwo Jima, Guam, Eniwetok, Mindanao, Okinawa, Luzon, Formosa and Manila.

Among Mr. Smith's wartime souvenirs, his son said, are three flight logs that recorded all training, military and postwar flights.

Mr. Smith was assigned to the Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington at the time he was discharged from the Navy in 1947.

"I have tremendous respect for Ev and what he did during the war. He went through all kinds of hell," said his longtime friend, W. Boulton "Bo" Kelly, a Baltimore architect and preservationist. "I was constantly amazed at some of the stories he told — and he didn't do it much — of hunting for his carrier, which was no more than a speck on the sea, during fog and rain," Mr. Kelly said. "It's incredible what they all went through."

After the war, Mr. Smith went to work in mortgage banking and was a vice president of Walker and Dunlop Mortgage Bankers from 1949 to 1968, specializing in commercial, industrial and apartment mortgages.

From 1968 to 1973, Mr. Smith held executive positions with Equitable Trust Co. and a bank subsidiary.

He served as vice president of Realty Growth Investors, a real estate investment trust company, from 1968 to 1970, and was an assistant vice president of the bank's mortgage department from 1970 to 1973.

Mr. Smith joined the Maryland National Bank Mortgage Corp. in 1974 and in 1981 went to work for the Maryland State Housing Fund.

From 1984 to 1989, his work with the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority involved bond issuance and loan guarantees for industrial and commercial projects.

After retiring, Mr. Smith was a member of the board of the Mid-Atlantic Business Finance Co., a nonprofit Small Business Administration bank. Earlier, he had been president of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Mr. Smith also held a real estate broker's license and had worked from 1978 to 1982 in the commercial and industrial division of O'Conor & Flynn.

A theater lover, Mr. Smith and his wife of 42 years, the former Keats Van Alstyne, who were active for years in local theater circles, were longtime patrons of Center Stage.

"He was a standout critic of some of the shows. Unlike a lot of Baltimore theatergoers who leave halfway through a show if they don't like it, Ev would suffer through the rest of it," said Mr. Kelly, who with his wife, Ellie, were frequent theater and dinner companions of the Smiths'.

"His criticisms and remarks about plays were always very cogent," Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Smith enjoyed working and took pride in the gardens that surrounded his Club Road home.

"Ev could make anything grow, and when you went into the dining room of his home, it was always filled with a profusion of blooms of flowers he had grown," said Mrs. Kelly. "He really had a green thumb."

Mr. Smith also planted an annual vegetable garden. He was an avid birdwatcher and enjoyed taking an autumn trip to Assateague Island to observe the migrating geese.

He seldom missed a Hopkins lacrosse game and also liked spending summers at a family home at Point O' Woods on Fire Island, N.Y., where he indulged his passion for ocean swimming.

Mr. Smith was a former member of the Roland Park Maintenance Corp. and was a member of the L'Hirondelle Club in Ruxton.

His first wife of 18 years, the former Jane Lansing Moeller, died in 1967.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

In addition to his son and wife, Mr. Smith is survived by two other sons, Jamieson M. Smith of Boca Raton, Fla., and Charles G.M. Smith of Folsom, Calif.; two stepsons, John S. Simpson of Hunt Valley and David G. Simpson of New York City; two stepdaughters, Leah Kalish of Los Angeles and Fay Simpson of New York City; 13 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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