Remembering Bill Smith

Belfast Flying Shoes lost a dear community member when Bill Smith passed away while adventuring on the Kennebec River on August 5.

Bill Smith with one of his banjos

Bill and his wife, Sarah Gregory Smith, moved to the Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage in 2010. Together, they were actively engaged in a variety of community activities, including music and dance. Bill was a talented musician, composer, song leader, and organizer; he helped bring music to countless people, including through the Celtic jam sessions and the Common House Concert series.

In addition to occasionally hosting visiting BFS performers and joining the BFS All Comers Band on first Fridays, Bill was a mainstay in the BFS outreach program at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center. His stellar musicianship on banjo and guitar lent a spark to the dances with the Reentry residents and community dancers, but his true gift was his charismatic ability to connect with others. During the social hour after the dancing, Bill would smile broadly and connect with the residents about banjo playing or woodworking or even the quality of the snacks. Another role Bill fulfilled was monitoring Sarah’s seeing eye dog, Hamilton, while Sarah danced. Invariably, Hamilton inched his way from beside Bill’s chair into the path of the dancers. Never pausing from his playing, Bill would reach out his foot to ‘reel in’ Hamilton to a safer spot, while the rest of us laughed with delight.

Belfast Flying Shoes is deeply honored to be among the suggested recipients for memorial donations in Bill’s name. Any contributions will support our community outreach programs – with a focus on programs relating to Bill’s special skills of teaching, sharing music (especially banjo and guitar), singing, and building community.

A celebration of Bill’s life is tentatively planned for the spring of 2021.  The Salem News version of his obituary follows, and the more complete version (with countless special details) is available here or here.

We are so grateful for Bill’s presence in our community, and now we think of him and Sarah singing in full-throated harmony while they sail together in another realm.

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February 1, 1943 – August 5, 2020

Thompson William Smith (a.k.a. “Smitty” and “Bill Smith”) was born on February 1, 1943 in Flushing, New York. He was a musician, teacher, wood worker, adventurer, sailor, husband, and friend. At the age of 77, he died on August 5, 2020.

As the youngest of three brothers, he grew up in Flushing. Upon graduating from Flushing High School in 1960 he attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Bill taught English and math at the Portage Northern High School in Portage, Michigan for four years. He then moved to Wayland, Massachusetts where he taught children with learning differences at the Carroll School in Lincoln. He also spent time doing woodworking in his shop.

In 1978, he married Sarah and they moved to Salem, Massachusetts. They became active members of Salem’s Universalist Church. Bill continued to do cabinetwork and taught woodworking at the Tower School in Marblehead.

In 1980 they started a series of Contra Dances and founded and directed the Salem Country Dance Orchestra where Sarah called the dances.

In 1999, Bill and Sarah bought a property on the Back Cove in Waldoboro, Maine where they designed and built a house on the shore. When the house became habitable in 2003, they moved to Maine full time.

In 2010, Bill and Sarah joined the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Belfast, Maine. They moved into their new home there in 2013 as an engaged and passionate member of the Co-Housing community.

He never stopped learning and composing new songs, singing the old ones, leading community sings and teaching five-string banjo and won many “Old Time” banjo contests.

Bill was a quietly charismatic leader with a commonsense approach to problem solving and an infectious “Let’s do this!” spirit. When his beloved Sarah passed away six months ago, he might have laid down the mantle of community leadership but he did not. He carried on with style and grace and inspired us to be our best selves.

His final adventure was to The Forks, Maine, for a rafting trip on the Kennebec River. The following day, on August 5, while floating down the gently flowing water of the Kennebec River on a rafting inner tube, he left us peacefully to re-join Sarah.

Bill was pre-deceased by his wife, Sarah, his brother, Bob, and by Lorraine, the wife of his surviving brother, Don. He is also survived by his nieces and nephews Janet and Dan Rice, Bob and Maria Smith, Debbie Schneider, Karen and Frank Cottone, Carol and Ed Boyle, Don and Jennifer Smith, as well as many grandnieces and grandnephews, plus countless friends, musicians, woodworkers, singers, sailors, and fellow adventurers.

A Celebration of T. William Smith’s life and music is tentatively planned for a time in the spring of 2021, providing that by then it will be safe to gather together again in music and fellowship.
For a more complete obituary, please go to: and search for T. William Smith.

Donations in memory of Bill may be made to either or both of the following nonprofit organizations: (1) Belfast Flying Shoes, a dance and music entity that offers ongoing vibrant community outreach programs, including ones in which Bill regularly participated. To donate to Belfast Flying Shoes, go to and click on the “Make a Donation” button. (2) The Sarah and Bill Smith Scholarship Fund at the Kinhaven Music School in Weston, Vermont, a classical music camp that offers young musicians transformative experiences. The time Sarah spent at Kinhaven changed her life in a way for which both she and Bill remained ever grateful. To donate to Kinhaven, go to, click on “Make Your Gift Online,” and fill in the box “In Honor or Memory.”