LAND O'LAKES — Harold W. Smith was an old-school politician, the kind who believed government is there to help people.
He knocked on doors: "Hi, I'm Harold W. Smith, and I'd be grateful for your vote."
People liked to be asked for their vote, he said.
It worked for Mr. Smith, who was elected to five terms as a Westchester County, N.Y., legislator.
Mr. Smith, who never stopped asking people for their support and getting it, died March 26 at his home of prostate cancer. He was 85 and had lived in Land O'Lakes since 1986.
"He was a lifelong New Deal Democrat," said son Michael Smith, who teaches government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia. "All his life, he thought that the best thing about the U.S. is that we cared for our fellow citizens."
As a Westchester County supervisor, Mr. Smith greased the wheels for residents who needed government services. He was famous for his oratory in meetings, where one colleague regularly referred to him as "the suave and polished Harold W. Smith, full of wisdom and pith."
He shook his fist at rude drivers, but couldn't bring himself to swear. After one driver cut him off, his son recalled, Mr. Smith sputtered, "You are a very … bad man!"
At tolls, he handed out hard candy to the toll booth keepers.
"Have a great day!"
He processed information like a smooth-running factory, reading eight newspapers a day. "He was a print guy," said Michael Smith, 58. "What he really liked was spreading out the newspaper and expressing indignation at some injustice or other."
Born in Yonkers, N.Y., Mr. Smith joined the Navy right out of high school. He served as a gunner's mate first class in the Pacific Ocean on the destroyer escort U.S.S. Jobb.
He met his future wife, Evelyn, then 16, at a dance. They married in 1948. The couple had three children, all of whom would become teachers.
Mr. Smith worked as a salesman for Wisconsin Tissue Mills, and was sometimes so successful that he outsold the mill's capacity to produce paper, his son said.
Mr. Smith served as a county legislator from 1962 to 1972; he then worked for the legislature as a full-time liaison between county and state government until 1986.
He retired to Land O'Lakes and downshifted to three newspapers a day. He was a district coordinator for the American Association of Retired Persons and president of the Central Pasco Coalition, which successfully lobbied for longer sidewalks and in 1996 helped repel a proposed natural gas line through Land O'Lakes. An earlier effort to fight another gas line did not succeed.
To relax, he sang with a velvet voice at retirement homes, a trumpet and an accordion backing him up. Mr. Smith smiled and flirted with the women.
"They were dancing with their walkers," his wife said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.