By Ken Trainor
William Beye Smeeth, 93, died in Scottsdale, Arizona, on April 13. Though his connection to Oak Park was many decades in the past, his Oak Park roots run deep. Born in Oak Park in 1920, his maternal grandfather was William Beye, after whom Beye School is named, and his maternal grandmother was "Nellie" Cristobal Lombard, after whom Lombard Avenue is named, according to a Pioneer Press obituary. He graduated from OPRF High School and was quite the athlete, competing in tennis at the state level and swimming at the national level. He was reportedly preparing for the 1944 Olympics when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and he joined the Coast Artillery Corps, serving through the Korean War.
He enjoyed mountain climbing, skiing, hiking, camping and especially swimming to the end of his life. Well, maybe not the mountain climbing. He worked in insurance in Hinsdale until 1960 when he had an "epiphany" and took a different path, co-founding the Academy of Basic Education (aka Brookfield Academy) in Brookfield, Wisconsin, in 1962. He taught and served as the school's headmaster for 13 years. In 1975, he and his wife moved to Arizona, where he began writing short stories and screenplays. After his wife died in 2001, he become deeply religious and a Jehovah's Witness.
His nicknames included Billy, Bill, Mr. Smeeth, William Beye, Daddio, Wild Bill, and Gompers/Grandad/Bonkers.
Bill Smeeth seemed quite the character. Really, there must be something in the water here.