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Retrospective of an RCM Pioneer (a.k.a, Dad)

Retrospective of an RCM Pioneer (a.k.a, Dad)

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you have crossed paths with Anthony “Mac” Smith at some point in your reliability career and endeavors. To you, he was a hardcore RCM guy; to me and my five siblings, he was simply Dad.

As many of you know, Dad passed away earlier this year. He lived 90 years—90 very full years. His academic and professional accomplishments are well-chronicled, particularly in the RCM space. I can still picture Dad and Tom Mattison of United Airlines drinking cocktails on our back porch over 40 years ago, laying the foundations for what would become RCM. Today, however, I wanted to share a few memories of Dad that may or may not have been apparent while he was out preaching the gospel of RCM.

One thing about Dad was his work ethic. This is probably pretty clear to those who worked with him, but to carry that same work ethic into a full life that included raising six kids presents this in a different light. As a father of two, my wife and I wonder now my parents did it, financially and logistically, all while maintaining some semblance of sanity.

Mac’s and Mary Lou’s six kids, circa 1966.

Of course, from the perspective of his teenage and young adult kids, this work ethic and strong beliefs sometimes showed up as stubbornness, and Dad was definitely one to dig in his heels when he felt strongly about something. Speaking as just one of the six kids, we had our differences at times, but these were usually where Dad felt strongly about something based on his learned and worked experience. For the record, I think it’s fair to say that all six of us carry some of Dad’s stubbornness as well as his work ethic.

The very nature of Dad’s work and his academic training as a mechanical engineer led one to expect that words like “structure” and “process” would be apt descriptors for him. Absolutely true! There is, however, another side to Dad that I would describe as being more laissez-faire than one might expect. One needs only to look as far as the career paths that his six kids took to gain an understanding of how someone can be as directed as Dad, yet still have a very open-ended side: nursing, art & design, music, theatre, law enforcement, and one who is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. My brother Ed, the musician in the bunch, recently shared that, in his 40+ years as a professional, accomplished musician, he is the only one among his hundreds of colleagues whose parents never tried to talk him out of a career in music or to have a “fallback” plan.

This also showed up in Dad’s view of people. He was very conservative and could be opinionated, but I was often surprised at how open he was to people from different walks of life. More than once, he counseled me to “cool it” with my opinions about people in my professional and personal life.

One other quality that I really want to spend more than a few words on is that Dad really liked to have fun. I can remember him, back in the 1970s, body-surfing at Ocean City, NJ, and fishing and swimming with us on our annual trips to the Poconos (or the “Poco-noco-nos” as Dad called them). Then there were the endless baseball games—the Phillies, Reds, and Giants as his career with General Electric moved us west—and attending and sometimes coaching Little League games.

One of Mac’s many days at the beach at Lake Tahoe with two of his grandkids.

Later in life, we all got to see Dad’s penchant for a good time in his transition—not retirement, but his transition—to another phase of life. Mom and Dad traveled the world—sometimes, RCM went along for the ride, with his various speaking engagements and consulting gigs, but he and Mom managed to have their share of fun all around North America and Europe.

And, of course, he loved being “Grandpa” to his six grandkids. Speaking just for our two daughters, their relationships with their Grandpa was truly special. A favorite memory in our family is that Dad’s last two backpacking trips, at the ages of 70 and 73, into the High Sierra were our also daughters’ first trips, when they were each 6-years-old.

Personally, a couple of my favorite memories with Dad later in his life were when he met me in Georgia to support me for the Soldier Marathon at Fort Benning (I was an infantry officer, and he was an engineering officer, so as one might guess, the ribbing among us as to the superior army branch was endless) and he and Mom—in their 80s at this point—attended a Cameo concert with my wife and I, sat in on soundcheck, hung out with the band, and had a legendary time with the legendary funk band (Word Up!).

The author and Mac at the finish line of the Soldier Marathon at Fort Benning, GA.

Indeed, Dad’s was a life well-lived. He managed to balance the demands of his career, six eclectic kids, and 66 years of marriage, all while having a heck of a ride along the way.

Dad was always enthusiastically talking about his experiences with the people he worked with, so a BIG thanks to the RCM community and the team at reliabilityweb.com and Uptime magazine. The large contingent of RCMers that showed up at Dad’s memorial service from all around the country speaks volumes about the quality of the people and the depth of the relationships built over many years. Many thanks and a heartfelt God bless to you all.

Note: Mike would love to hear from his Dad’s colleagues; he can be reached at michael.smith16@att.net.

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Mike Smith

Mike Smith is Mac and Mary Lou Smith’s fifth of their six children. He and his wife Katie have been married for 30 years and have two twenty-something daughters. Professionally Mike is Principal at KLN Group, a consultancy in the utility & energy technology, smart grid, asset management, and analytics space. He holds a BA, Economics from San Jose State University, an MA, Christian Leadership from William Jessup University, and is a veteran of the US Army (Captain, Infantry). He can be reached at michael.smith16@att.net

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