Harry Frederick Smith
War and a leg wound brought Harry Frederick Smith to his life’s work. In 1944 while recuperating in a military hospital, Harry was assigned the job of preparing a unit of new cooks for battlefront duty in Europe. He had to teach them how to cook, camouflage their stoves, keep meals hot, and relay food to men under fire. But foremost, he found that he had to teach the men how to read so that they might follow the recipes they’d be using. That is when he realized that he would like to be a teacher when he returned to civilian life.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Boston University in 1948, Smith moved to Manchester and began teaching social studies at the high school. At the same time he worked on a master’s degree in secondary education from Springfield College. It was during this time that many of our classmates sat in Smith’s business education classes.
It was a year after we graduated, however, that Smith truly found his calling. Edson Bailey, principal during our years at MHS, along with retired assistant principle Chester Robinson and former assistant school superintendent Raymond Stinchfield approached Smith about teaching exceptional pupils. He obtained scholarships from the Soroptimist Club and the Hartford Association for Retarded Children and began courses at UConn. Eventually he received his master’s-plus-30 hours diploma in special education.
In addition to his regular teaching load, then, Harry Smith started teaching mentally retarded adults in Hartford. He also taught business ed courses to slow learners at MHS. Eventually he worked with John Craig and Katherine Orcutt to develop a new evening program for mentally retarded young adults in Manchester.
Smith was one of those rare and gifted individuals committed to using his skills and knowledge to produce small miracles in the lives of exceptional students. Our classmate Dick Jenkins writes about Smith: “He was not only a teacher, he was a friend. He was always happy. Always light, and he conversed on your frequency. He made class work fun.... He was concerned about you and how you were reacting to life as a teen. He would discuss personal things with you. He provided fatherly advice.... Because of his interest in students on a personal level, I was not surprised to learn that he finished his career teaching special students.”
Reproduced 2011 from www.mhs1955.com with permission of its webmaster Dick Jenkins.
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