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A crown jewel of the mountain dies

-  Community remembers Joie Smith of Rhododendron; memorial set for Sunday, April 27


Few people are described as a “crown jewel on the mountain,” but that is exactly how Joie Smith was thought of by Hoodland Fire Chief Mic Eby.

“She was one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever known,” he said. “She probably thought about taking care of herself last.”

Smith died Saturday, March 29, at her home in Rhododendron. She was 85. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Joie Smith with her favorite horses, Floyd and Sam. A couple months before her passing, Smith rode in a truck into the area to see them. Sam stuck his head through the window to say goodbye.

Smith’s half sister, Gayle Kosel, remembers growing up with Smith as someone who took care of the family. Smith was 12 years older than Kosel, making her the often-designated babysitter, Kosel said.

“I think that’s why she didn’t really want a family,” she said, “because she had already done that.”

Kosel remembers that Smith used to buy, fix up and resell cars out of their garage when Smith was in high school, eventually saving enough money to buy a brand new 1949 Ford convertible. “There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do if she put her mind to it,” Kosel said.

Smith took pride in being independent, and was always self-employed, said Kosel, who saw her sister as having her own notions on how to do things.

Bill White, who met Smith in 1993 during an Oregon Trail reenactment, also noticed her pride in earning her own money. “She never took a dime from the government,” he said.

Born in Portland, Smith eventually ended up on Mount Hood, getting involved with Timberline stables in the 1950s. Smith had a love of horses and a love of the mountain. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Always a lover of skiing, Smith ran her own ski shop on the mountain for a time.

“She considered this to be her home up here,” said Kosel, also a resident of Rhododendron.

Smith, who had a background in engineering — she attended the University of Oregon, though she never earned a degree — eventually started her own business, Alpine Towing, where she helped many people on the mountain.

“She saw a need for it,” Kosel said, “and talked it over with my dad.”by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Smiths business, Alpine Towing, ran for more than 50 years. The trucks are still parked on her property in Rhododendron.

Kosel said Smith had a mind for looking at a wreck and knowing the best way to clean it up with the least damage to what was around it.

Eby met Smith through her role at Alpine Towing.

When he began working at Timberline, Eby said, he parked his car at Government Camp and took the bus up to the ski area. When he returned from his first day, he found his car on the other side of the street from where he had left it. The next day, he parked in the same place and came back to find it moved once more.

“The street I had parked on was on the snow plow route. (Smith) had seen my Hoodland Fire sticker and towed it across the street both times,” Eby said. “Finally she left me a note saying, ‘I can’t do this much longer. Learn to read.’”by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - With her engineers mind, Smith was instrumental in helping with rescues during floods in 1964. A memorial for Smith, who died March 29, will be held Sunday, April 27, at the Mt. Hood Lions Club.

Eby said Smith was a big help to Hoodland Fire over the years, eventually becoming a sort of “den mother.”

Smith was on call 24 hours a day and was devoted to her business, Kosel said.

“She was always there, day or night, and always smiling,” Eby said. “Sometimes because she knew we were doing something stupid and knew the outcome before we did.”

He added that Smith used to provide safety for the fire department, doing everything from towing their vehicles to holding classes at the department. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Smith was the first woman to participate in the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol Olympics in 1960.

“She’s going to be missed,” Eby said.

Friends and family will hold a memorial for Smith at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Mt. Hood Lions Club, at the corner of Highway 26 and Woodsey Way in Zigzag.

White suggests getting to the memorial early, as he expects to have as many as 500 people to attend.