Smithwick had ‘ink in her veins’
“She was not a forgettable person.”
This was how Lynn Hummel summarized former Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Lin Smithwick, who passed away last weekend in Fargo at the age of 69.
“Anybody who knew her would remember her,” added Hummel, a retired attorney who has also written a column for the Detroit Lakes Tribune for many years.
Smithwick was primarily known for writing features about people in the community, though she also covered a wide variety of community news and events — including Laker sports, of which she was a strong supporter.
Hummel recalls seeing her out at local football games on many a Friday evening.
“She’d be out there on the sidelines during those chilly fall evenings in a short-sleeved shirt,” Hummel said. “She never wore a coat.”
He also recalls that “if she wrote about someone, it was always in some detail — and her personal feelings (about the person) would be in there, all over the place. That’s just the way she was.”
Despite the fact that they both wrote for the local newspaper, Hummel added, “I remember her more as a person than as a reporter. She was just this outgoing, bouncy, cheerful, big personality. Wherever she went, she was conspicuous.”
“I could write pages about Lin,” said former Detroit Lakes Newspapers editor Jamie Marks Erickson, who worked with Smithwick from 1992-2000.
But Erickson confined herself to this affectionate tribute: “I think the angels in Heaven do not know what hit them. The new kid is flying in all directions with a camera and a notebook and lots of food, and she already knows everyone, or will soon. I honestly can’t think of her as being gone, just off to a new assignment.”
Pastor Dave Peterson of First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes also recalled Smithwick with some affection, noting that she had served on the call committee which called him to serve the local congregation, more than 20 years ago.
“She was bubbly, vibrant, chaotic,” Peterson said. “She was very spur of the moment, in my memories. She had this unique organizing system — and a memory that just wouldn’t quit.”
Peterson also shared this anecdote about one Sunday morning when he walked up to Smithwick, planning to congratulate her on a recent award.
“I came up to her and said, ‘I’ve been hearing things about you,’” Peterson recalled.
Her response wasn’t exactly what he expected. Instead of a simple, “what have you heard,” Smithwick came up with multiple possible transgressions that someone might have told him.
“It turned into a 20-minute confession,” he said with a smile. As soon as he could get a word in edgewise, he told her, “no, it’s all good things,” and they shared a laugh.
Over the years, Peterson added, “she did a good job of making sure the community knew all the good things that were happening at First Lutheran.”
“She was a cheerleader for this church, but it went bigger than that. She was a cheerleader for the community.
“She had a passion for living —a passion for life,” Peterson added. “She truly had a heart of gold.”
After leaving Detroit Lakes, Smithwick went on to work at many North Dakota publications, including the Cass County Reporter, Inspired Home and Prairie Business View, among others.
Her obituary in the June 11 edition of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead stated, “Perhaps Lin’s greatest legacy was her ability to tell a story. Regardless of who she was interviewing, she always managed to make everyone feel like a celebrity, and each story she told was with love and genuine excitement.”
Services for Lin Smithwick took place this past Thursday, June 13 at First Lutheran Church in Fargo, with burial at Riverside Cemetery, Fargo. Arrangements were handled by Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.