Like everyone else who knew Greg Smith, his death Monday morning filled me with a terrible sorrow.
Like everyone else who knew Greg, I felt as though I lost my best friend.
Greg was a joyous soul, one of the kindest people I ever met. As I write this, my mind sees his infectious smile, hears his gravelly voice, rejoices in his gentle nature, and is amazed by his super human enthusiasm.
Shortly after launching New Bern Post back in October, I began work on what was to be a series of feature articles about things that make New Bern special. Greg Smith and Mitchell Hardware, one and the same, were first on my list.
I started laying the groundwork. I visited Mitchell Hardware more often, surreptitiously gathering information for the article I was going to write while buying things I didn’t really need.
Did you know Mitchell Hardware stocks more than 80,000 items? That’s what a store employee told me, confirmed by Greg himself. I have half a notebook full of little tidbits like that.
I was going to surprise him with it. I would take my collection of tidbits, photos and videos about him and his store and put it on my website, then I would show him. He would be flattered and a little embarrassed. He did not deserve such attention, he would have said.
That I did not finish it is tragic. That Greg is no longer with us is our tragedy.
But Greg’s death, though untimely and unwanted, was not tragic. It is lives that end unfulfilled that are tragic. Greg’s life is the embodiment of a life lived well and a life fulfilled. Greg’s life was a storybook of friendships and accomplishments and a wonderful store filled with treasures useful and useless totaling more than 80,000 items.
I knew Greg just over eight years. His house is around the corner and down the block from mine and I walk past it nearly every day. Often I saw him in his yard and waved. Sometimes I’d stop and we would have a chat while I petted his dog.
It struck me a bit odd that someone who runs a wonderful place like Mitchell Hardware would live so simply … a gray-painted bungalow with a simple yard. Of course I know the reason; we all do.
Greg Smith spent his life dedicated to his store and a city full of best friends.
Randy Foster/New Bern Post