Many Oswego families have contributed monumentally to the betterment of our community. Most have done so figuratively. The family of Mitchell Street’s James H. Smith has done so literally.
Three generations of stonecutters have carved their mark at the 53 Mitchell St. site since the company was founded in 1892. The original shop was across the street. They moved to more modern quarters built in 1946. James L.Smith succeeded his dad, and James E. Smith succeeded his. They bought tons of the best Vermont marble, and shaped it into stunning remembrance pieces for three generations of Oswegonians.
Today, more often than not, the stone carving is done at the factory site. Not so with the Smith family monuments.
The monument business is no more, and the building at the corner of Mitchell and East 11th streets is now a cozy apartment for James E.’s wife, Julie Galvin Smith, a devoted and now retired art teacher at Charles E. Riley Elementary School. Jim died in 1995.
Jim L. and his wife Ruth Schneible Smith had two other children, a daughter Marilyn (Roger Dobson) who now lives in Cape Canaveral. Marilyn was a kindergarten teacher for many years, and she and husband Roger, a CPA and hotel developer, had two daughters, Katie and Caroline.
Youngest of the Smith clan was son Greg (Ellie Sivers) who resides in Eugene, Oregon. Ruth remarried several years after James Sr.’s death and relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida. for most of the year. She was predeceased by her second husband, Art Kersten. Ruth died in 1999.
Greg has been my best friend since college and he and Ellie return to Oswego each summer to enjoy the sunsets and visit family and friends while Greg teaches summer counseling courses at the college. He’s been doing that for the last thirty or so years.
Greg married Ellie Sivers in 1969, after her graduation from SUNY Oswego. They moved to Cazenovia, where he taught social studies at the high school level. They had their first and only child, a son, Simon in 1970. In 1972 they headed to the University of Oregon, where Greg got his masters, then Ph.D in clinical psychology. Ellie obtained a counseling degree and they have remained there for nearly fifty years.
I have many fond memories of eating Mrs. Smith’s delicious home made pies and listening to James Sr.’s recitation of his diary on many a summer eve, sitting on their front porch. Greg’s dad was an avid swimmer and I remember how he would swim way out at Sheldon’s Beach, half a mile or more, when he was in his sixties.
One of my most prized possessions is a square granite plaque with my name carved in green into the marble, saying John T. Sullivan Jr., Attorney at Law. It was specially made for me by Jim (“Cueball”) Jr., and has adorned every office door I have had for the last 49 years. But aside from monuments, the real impact Greg and his family made upon me has been his steadfast, lifelong friendship, and his ability to make me laugh, no matter what. Whenever I am a little down, my kids always say to me, “Call Greg! He will cheer you up.” And he always does.
He could be a stand up comic. He is that funny!
Greg was a standout athlete in high school. In college, he recruited me to play on his softball team. I was assigned to right field. How much trouble can you get into in right field anyway?
Well, I found out. While chasing a pop fly I slid on the wet grass, and literally went flying in the air, and sprained my ankle on landing. I remained on crutches for the balance of that summer. I will never forget how Greg, who was the pitcher, doubled over on the mound in laughter, until he realized I was actually hurt. That was my last softball venture, but we went on to have many more ventures and adventures, and I served as best man in his Aug. 1969 wedding to Ellie Sivers. Ellie is one of the smartest people I have ever met. We affectionately call her “Connie Chung” because she always seems to have all the answers. Greg and Ellie have two grandchildren, Madison and Cooper. They live in Eugene.
The Smith family has made an indelible mark in this community, and the memories are already forever etched in stone and in the hearts of many of their fellow Oswegonians.
John T. Sullivan Jr. was mayor of the City of Oswego from 1988-1991 and has held several other state and local positions. He is semi-retired as an attorney. He is the author of the book “Forks in the road,” which is available at river’s end bookstore in Oswego and online. His memoir/autobiography, “Pee not your pants! Memoirs of a small town mayor with big time ideas,” is available online through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble and in local bookstores.