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Deceased: Arthur E. Smith, Jr.

Last Updated: 17th Dec 2009

By Tony Nikischer

Reprinted from Mineral News - Vol.25, No. 11 - November, 2009

Deceased: Arthur E. Smith, Jr.

Tony Nikischer
Excalibur Mineral Corporation

Art Smith, one of the most prolific authors and field collectors to ever wield a pen and hammer, died on the evening of November 12 after a multiple bouts with cancer.

My first encounter with Art was many years ago in Tucson at the old Travelodge motel. I had a reasonable selection of “rare uglies” and micro material in my selling room, and Art sat down, studied extensively, and talked much about minerals. We hit it off immediately. He became a frequent customer, and when I opened my analytical laboratory some years later, Art was one of my most consistent clients, always curious about proper identification of the unknowns in his vast collection.

It was his attention to detail, discerning eye and genuine curiosity that resulted in his discovery of artsmithite, his namesake mineral. I was pleased to be the first to analyze the species, and as a co-author of the eventual IMA-approved submission, I was thrilled for Art that he had be thusly honored, a small payback for his life-long generosity toward others in the mineral community.
Art began collecting seriously in 1956, devoting much of his field collecting efforts to Maine and New Hampshire localities. Long after he moved to Texas, Art would still make periodic pilgrimages to the northeast to collect minerals with Gene Bearss and others, and he always turned up interesting material that often defied easy identification.

As a young petroleum geologist, he studied the salt dome caprocks of Texas and Louisiana, and became an expert in the minerals to be found there. His love of Arkansas collecting, particularly in and around Magnet Cove and the Ouachita National Forest from 1958 forward, began five decades of dedicated fieldwork in the state. His 1995 magnum opus, Collecting Arkansas Minerals, is today still one of the most useful references and field guides for this mineralogically prolific state. Art was proud to have compiled and written the book, and it was just one of the many pieces of literature he shared with so many of us.

As an author, Art wrote frequently for Mineral News, often submitting a half dozen or more articles a year. He also wrote for Rocks and Minerals and Mineralogical Record as well, sharing his expertise with a remarkably wide audience. He compiled research bibliographies for his favorite localities, published them privately, then freely distributed them to his friends and fellow collectors. He did so quietly and without fanfare.

Art’s willingness to support club and institutional efforts is near legendary: a workhorse who assembled collections for donations to schools and kids, a builder of libraries, a guy who would always man the identification booth at a club show, a contributor of both time and money to mineralogical causes like the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, an avid supporter of local mineral societies. He worked tirelessly at being a “mineral emissary” at every opportunity, promoting the hobby he loved for more than fifty (50) years.

As a micromounter and field collector, Art was always generous with material, consistently gave more than he got, and shared his wealth of locality and mineral information with anyone who sought it, whether it pertained to Arkansas, Texas, Mexico or New England. Art epitomized the ideal mentor to beginners, and no one was more patient than he at bringing along new collectors.

In May of this year, Art told me his cancer was back for the third time, and it didn’t look good for his summer trip back east to collect. He had difficulty chewing and looking through the microscope, and it was the latter that upset him most. Sadly, I wouldn’t see Art this summer as we had hoped, as he was too ill to travel. His mineral legacy, however, lives on in his writings and his friendships, and he touched so many of us with his generous spirit.

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