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Stan Smith, 'Mr. Raider,' remembered

Known as “Mr. Raider,” Stan Smith is being remembered as a noted valley restaurateur and indefatigable booster and fundraiser for Southern Oregon University teams. He died Tuesday at 91.

The tall, irascible, tireless Smith was known and loved by Raider football players and coaches stretching back to 1946 when, as a player, he helped create the only undefeated SOU team ever, notes Coach Craig Howard. As his health allowed, Smith attended nearly all tailgate parties, practices and games, even one in Iowa a few years ago, Howard said.

“We called him Mr. Raider. He was the greatest supporter and had a unique, special relationship with everyone on the team and staff,” Howard said. “He was a fireball, an amazing man, and will be greatly missed. He made a big impact as high school coach in Eagle Point, the Illinois Valley, Baker City and Ashland. He was a go-getter guy, and our national championship was a big thrill for him.”

In August 1942, Smith was a junior at Medford High School when he enlisted in the Navy, serving on supply convoy runs between Panama and Atlantic ports. After the war, he and hundreds of other veterans flocked to then-sinking Southern Oregon College of Education, and 30 of them joined the grid team, wiping out all comers.

Aside from regional sports, Smith’s big passion was running restaurants. He created and managed the A&W in Ashland, Cubby’s in Medford and Mon Desir in Central Point, all now long gone.

“He was one great person,” said former Ashland Mayor Alan DeBoer. “He made an impact on everyone around him. I have fond memories of him and my dad, Walt, having a ball, washing all the dishes at the A&W and drinking. He was a great supporter of all kids. They were his first love.”

Smith’s daughter Dana Smith Tuley notes that he and his late wife, Tommie (“Mrs. Raider”), achieved everything in tandem, including raising three children.

“I was always so proud, even as a child, of what my parents did for others, their community, wherever we lived,” Tuley said. “When Dad was coaching football in the '50s and '60s, they didn't have much, but we never did without that we knew of. But for others, their energy and selflessness was amazing. In those early days, if a team needed football jerseys, Dad would cook spaghetti, chili, whatever they could for a fundraising event, and the teams always got what they needed. How many coaches raised money for bleachers and planted their own football field? He actually got on the tractor and got the field leveled and ready to be planted.”

SOU Alumni Director Mike Beagle, a friend since college days in 1982, recalled Smith as “cantankerous, opinionated and ready to tell you what he thought whether you wanted to hear it or not. If you asked how he was, he’d say, ‘Not worth a Goddamn!’ He was strong-willed and passionate about SOU. He started the SOU Raider Athletic Club and the golf tourney (the school’s biggest fundraiser, started in 1990). He was a philanthropist and donated a lot to SOU scholarships. He didn’t fit into the self-centered world we live in. He gave back big-time. He was a selfless, caring guy, a strapping man with a vice of a handshake. He lived a great life. There was only one Mr. Raider, and no one will replace him.”

Smith daily watched the building of the newly refurbished Raider Stadium, with great attention to detail, and he was frustrated by limits on his health in later years, Beagle said.

Smith and his wife were founding members and principal organizers of the Raider Athletic Association, which has generated more than $4 million for student-athletes, said Tuley. They started the SOU Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Raider Club Golf Tournament, bringing in sponsors and cooking for barbecues themselves, she said.

Smith created the horn that blows at Raider Stadium after each touchdown and operated it himself for years, Tuley said. They sewed stadium flags, held watermelon feeds after summer practices and held barbecues for freshmen recruits, a tradition now taken over by the Smith children, she said. One year, when the girls volleyball team was away at finals over Thanksgiving, they cooked up the entire Thanksgiving dinner for everyone.

In addition to Dana Smith Tuley, Smith’s other children are Dane Smith and Sandra Smith Trott, all of Medford. Smith died of natural causes with his family at his side. A memorial will be announced later.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Stan Smith