WHITE RIVER JCT. — A memorial to remember and celebrate the life of Sam Chesney Smith will be held on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. at Veteran’s Memorial Park, 12 Railroad Row, White River Junction. All are invited to a reception directly afterwards at Piecemeal Pies, where food, spirits, stories and memories will be celebrated and shared in honor of Sam’s life.
Samuel Owen Smith, commonly known as Sam Chesney Smith, took his last breaths Oct. 31, 2017. He was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer in January, 2015. Despite state-of-the-art treatments, alternative therapies and an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle, the cancer made a slow progression and finally took his life. Sam passed peacefully and consciously surrounded by the love of many friends and family.
He was born in New Amsterdam Berbice, Guyana S.A. on March 28, 1955, son of Rachael Frances Chesney and Samuel Nathaniel Smith, Sam was one of seven children.
He is survived by his siblings, Lillian, Aubrey, Rudolph, Desiree and Patrick; 11 nieces and nephews; one son, Stokley; three aunts, Babs, Joy, Avlene; two uncles, Osman and Comptan; as well as many beloved friends.
Sam lived a life full of joy and accomplishment. As a child in Guyana, he spent endless hours in the jungle of the Amazon, often choosing the company of the wild over rowdy schoolmates. Sam was content exploring alone, often with a stick and a cage luring exotic birds as pets, sitting in trees and getting to know the various plants and fruits of the forest or riding on the donkeys. After schooling and then employment he worked at the Guyana Defense Force (GFF) in charge of the armory.
In 1978 Sam moved to New York City where he studied English Literature at the City College of New York and Screenwriting at the School of Visual Arts 1982-85 and 1991 respectively. While in New York City, Sam worked for the United Children’s Fund, Bellevue Hospital Corporation, as an electrician and building manager, in television production as well as media research. On the side he organized for LGTBQ rights, wrote screenplays, worked on numerous projects in the arts and in public service and kept the company of many prominent and well-known artists.
Sam left New York City for New Orleans, Louisiana seeking a warmer climate and artistic culture. While there he created a Language Arts after-school program he called Bio Up that used story telling and biographies of inspiring civil rights leaders to teach emotional literacy and history. He also founded and produced Make A Long Story Short, LLC working with a team of colleagues and diverse populations to adapt long stories into short ones and screen plays. Never losing his love of nature, he would run or bike around New Orleans gathering the fruits of trees, often grapefruit and pomegranates, to share with his friends. When Katrina struck, Sam spearheaded a housing project, The Katrina-House Project (KHP) that would coordinate healing through group therapy, story telling and art programs, job and education referrals, artist studios and multimedia space, performance venues and more. During this time in New Orleans Sam also developed a clothing line called Urban World Wear, with designs inspired by mystic symbolism “for the conscious citizen.” As a response to 9-11, he created the Middle Passage Memorial, Waterbirds Flying into the Sun as a symbol of peace and reconciliation and to create space for interfaith gatherings and practice.
Eventually, Sam moved back north to be closer with his family who at this point mostly all moved from Guyana to New York City and North Carolina. He got a job living on a small farm in Poultney, where he worked with a publisher of spiritual texts. There he milked goats and edited books mostly on astrology. He moved to White River Junction in 2010 and worked at the Parker House in Quechee, Ibex Clothing and lastly at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction.
Sam loved Vermont and specifically White River Junction. He felt that the unique and talented artists, healers and local visionaries made for a quaint and inspiring hub for him to not only develop a community of support and affection, but also provide him the inspiration to finish his last screen play Crispus Attucks, a historical non-fiction based on the life of a Natick and African American whaler who was one of the first men shot in the Boston Massacre. This screenplay went on to be a selection for the 2017 Freeway Film Festival. As a resident of White River Junction, he volunteered many hours to help build the garden at White River Elementary School and care for the Raspberry Revolution Park. Sam had a deep passion for justice and peace and was instrumental in conversations that led to the taking down of a confederate flag, teaching involved parties about moral turpitude; an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.
A quiet contemplative and sometimes eccentric, yet always caring and compassionate person, Sam had a great love of books, poetry, theatre, history, politics, nature, Tai Chi, language and children. He would often be sitting in the sun reading the New York Times, specifically the Tuesday paper as he had a particular love for the Science section, sipping on espresso with steamed almond milk. As a lay Jungian psychologist, his love of conversation, metaphors, spirituality, mysticism and the expansive nature of the psyche made for enlightening conversation where he would share deep and inspired thinking with a twist of obscure history and humorous interludes. A gentle, kind, wise, humble and loving soul, Sam left a lasting impression on this world will be missed dearly.
His family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to all who lent a helping hand, shared a warm home-cooked meal, gave Sam a ride and showed generosity and compassion to Sam during the last years and months of his life, when his health and energy started to decline.
This obituary will also appear in the November 9, 2017 edition of the Vermont Standard.
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