Southold pulls together for family of boatyard worker

03/01/2011 12:00 PM |


If you had work done on your boat at Brewer Yacht Yard in Greenport in the last several years, chances are you knew Bill Smith of Southold. He was the man who took pride in his work caring for his customers’ boats and he always wanted to know they were satisfied.

He would always take time to talk to them about their boats, their vacations and their families, said Brewer’s manager Mike Acebo.

Mr. Smith was only 53 when he succumbed to a heart attack last September, leaving behind a wife and three children. Mr. Smith’s wife, MaryJo, is studying to become a registered nurse while holding down a full-time job as a licensed practical nurse for Catholic Home Care. She expects to earn a better income after she graduates in June 2012.

As with most families today, the loss of her husband’s income has made for a difficult struggle. To help, friends have organized a fundraising dinner at Soundview Restaurant in Greenport on Saturday, March 12, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Tickets for the dinner are $50 for adults and $20 for students and are available at Southold Pharmacy and Jeni’s Main Street Grill in Southold and JET’s Dream and Brewer Yacht Yard in Greenport. Those unable to attend who wish to contribute may send checks payable to the Bill Smith Benefit, Capital One Bank, 230 Main St., Greenport, NY 11944.

“The community wants to support MaryJo because she and Bill have supported the community in many ways, the most generous was with Maureen’s Haven at Southold Presbyterian Church,” said dinner organizer Colleen Clark.

“It’s hard being on the receiving end,” Mrs. Smith said of the community effort to help her and her children. Noah, 18, works at North Fork Table and Inn and expects to start college in September. Dina, 23, took time off from her job at Blue Duck Bakery in Southold to help her mom through these trying months and has just begun working as a cook and baker at Pagano’s in Southold. William, 21, is a junior at SUNY/Maritime in the Bronx.

“My husband was very proud of me going back to college,” Mrs. Smith said.

He also always encouraged his children to do better, said Dina Smith. All three Smith children learned to play soccer, coached by their dad, and Noah and William still play the game well, she said.

The couple met on a blind date arranged by a friend. It was definitely love at first sight, Mrs. Smith said. They would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in February.

Her husband brought to their relationship a sense of excitement about life, inspired by his wider-world experiences, she said. When he was 20, he took a cross-country bicycle trip, visiting all 48 states in the continental United States. She found his tales fascinating. Mr. Smith loved gardening and he loved the sea, she said.

“He just loved being outdoors,” she said.

When they moved back to Long Island from upstate 16 years ago — Mr. Smith had grown up in Kings Park and wanted to be near his family — he worked several jobs and was hired at Brewer’s two years ago.

He had a greenhouse background and despite his experience as a former merchant mariner, he needed training for the Brewer’s job, Mr. Acebo said. But he loved fishing and was quick to learn yacht maintenance. While a lot of workers are only interested in a paycheck, Mr. Smith always cared about customers and was concerned about doing a good job for them, Mr. Acebo said.

“He was a great employee” and his diligence was “a fairly rare sort of thing in America today,” Mr. Acebo said. He would volunteer for the “nastiest” of jobs and took pride in doing them well, he said. What’s more, after working a full shift, he would return after work to plant flowers at the yard and create an attractive ambiance for his customers and his co-workers, Mr. Acebo said.

“All the customers truly enjoyed him,” he said.

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