Eric W. Smithner

WATERVILLE — Eric Ward Smithner, 91, of Portland and Gorham, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011, at Oak Grove Nursing Home.

He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Dec. 27, 1919, the son of Charles and Sarah Smithner, and grandson of Michael Schmitthenner, who served in the Army during the Civil War, escaped from the infamous Libby Prison and walked home to Cincinnati through forests, mountains and fields.

Eric graduated from Hughes High School in Cincinnati, Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, earned both a master’s degree and a doctorate degree in French and Latin from New York University and did graduate work at the University of Grenoble (France) and Middlebury College in Vermont. His professional career in education began at Bridgeton Academy, where he met his future wife Blanche Jones of Solon, who predeceased him in 1986. He retired as a full professor from Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, Pa., and in 1983, moved to Portland.

As a U.S. Army infantryman in World War II, he landed in Normandy on D-Day + 6. He fought in hand-to-hand combat in France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany and was awarded the American Theater Ribbon, the EAME Ribbon, and three Bronze Stars.

Eric was an accomplished musician on flutes, piccolo, recorders, oboe and saxophones. He directed a Bloomsburg Baroque Ensemble while a member of the faculty of Bloomsburg University and played in the Bloomsburg Community Orchestra, the Danville (Pa.) Veterans Band, and in the ancient Catawissa Band.

He played at many churches throughout his life, including the Foxhurst Presbyterian Church of Oceanside, N.Y., where he was an elder, and the Geneseo Presbyterian Church (Geneseo, N.Y.) as a flute soloist. In Portland, he played flute for the Chestnut Street United Medodist Church, accompanied by Clarissa Brown, organist. As a volunteer through the years, Eric performed a variety of musical programs at retirement homes, senior centers, and the Salvation Army.

Eric was a member of the Mace Club at Bloomsburg University (Pa.) and the American Legion Post 40 in Danville, Pa. He was a member of the Marston Kotchzmar Society and played classical selections on the flute, accompanied by club members through the years, and was a longstanding member of the Tuesday Morning Men’s Club, held at the Woodford’s Congregational Church, where he enjoyed discussing a wide range of topics.

Eric and his family spent many summers on Panther Pond in Raymond, where he built a summer camp “Aix les Pins” and was proud to say he dug the well and constructed the stone chimney.

Dr. Smithner will be remembered as a Renaissance man — a student, a teacher (French, Latin and Greek), a friend to many throughout his life, and a provocative conversationalist.

Eric was predeceased by his beloved companion of many years, Betty F. Winterhalder in August, 2010.

He is survived by a son, Scott of Waterville; a daughter, Nancy Smithner of New York City; six grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a memorial service on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011, at 2 p.m., at the First Lutheran Church, 132 Auburn Street, Portland. Arrangements are under the direction of Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, 199 Woodford Street, Portland.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to: The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037 or City of Portland Department of Parks, 17 Arbor Street, Portland, ME 04103.

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