With an extremely positive attitude about life and death and everything in between, Doug loved that the Aborigines of Australia say the same thing when someone is born as when someone dies, “You are loved and have a good journey.” That is what he’d love to hear from all of you who read this.
His aortic valve needed to be replaced “down the road,” but this weakening came on suddenly and he died Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.
We moved to the valley in 1975 with the same immediate love for Montana that strikes many of us. Doug associated in the dental practice of wonderful Doug Smith in Bigfork a couple evenings a week and Saturdays. He enjoyed supplementing our income by playing poker around the valley – for fun and some profit – a game of skill, he might remind you, not chance. His dressed-up tomato juice “looked” like a Bloody Mary.
He began building his dental office in Lakeside in 1976 with his own two hands and then with the help of his dental partner, Rege Hastings, and Bill Brass, who sold us the property. Doug and Rege bought materials at hardware stores on credit with a handshake, and ate cheeseburgers at the Lakeside Merc for lunch. Both Doug and Rege also worked at the dental clinics in St. Ignatius and Polson for the Indian Health Service.
Next, came building our house also with his own two hands, and mine, and those of our two children as they grew. He designed the house, an octagon with three cantilevered appendages and with efficiency in mind. Materially, he was a minimalist, but he appreciated beauty in art, nature, and the world.
He grew up building model airplanes and used that skill to build a balsa wood model of our house to inspire us. Later, when we dug eight holes for a post and beam foundation, something fell on the model and crushed it. Oh well, he was also designing it on paper. We lived in the house for five years while it was under construction: a real “learning experience.”
Doug grew up in Huntington Beach, California, where swimming was a big part of his lifestyle. He once saved his mother’s life when she fell off a friend’s boat in the middle of the ocean coming back from Catalina Island in the dark.
His father, Ray, established several of his own businesses, invented things, and loved to work. His mother, Jean, was smart, the business bookkeeper, the hostess with the most-est. Doug and his sister, Karren, and brother, Gary, worked alongside them and grew up learning by doing. His childhood and creative personality fueled an insatiable curiosity.
Skiing became part of his Montana lifestyle and last year he began to ski free on Big Mountain! With paradise in our backyard, he hiked and climbed in Glacier Park and rafted and canoed the rivers. He served on the board of the Glacier Institute for 12 years, an educational organization he so believed in. With much more time to “practice” golf these last five years of retirement, he was disciplined at it like anything else he chose to accomplish. Part of golf is a mind game and he accepted that challenge, which can mean being a very good golfer and a not-so-good one on the same day. He celebrated three holes-in-one over his golf career. Golf serves up problems and he was a problem solver. In addition, he loved being outside and walking the course for exercise. “Avid” is an adjective used to describe people who really get into golf and it certainly “fit him to a tee.” Doug would play in the rain, by himself, into darkness, twice getting locked in at Buffalo Hill because the caretaker had left. He played the Polson course into November when once, towards dusk, it was only him and a fox on the course.
The biggest part of his life? His family, friends, staff, patients, and people in general, anywhere and everywhere. He had a big desire to help with all he had to offer — from his skilled hands and compassion in dentistry and health in general, to manual labor, to using his abilities in math and science to invent and fix. People will remember his big, automatic, sincere smile. He was a happy person.
Doug and I (Karen) were married 50 years as of June 30, 2017. Our two pride and joys are our daughter, Kari who lives in Redmond, Washington, married to Ray Tai with boys, Elliott, 12, and Arie, 11, and our son, Josh who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, married to Sarah with twin girls, Emma and Avery, age 4.
We will be celebrating his life in the spring. He loved parties, weddings and celebrations, and he will be “there” for it.