Charles Wallace Smith

charles smith

May 20, 1922 - July 30, 2009


"park Sculpture"

Untitled, 1976 ("Park Sculpture")


circle and angles

Study of Angles and Circles, 1969


Mother and Child

Mother and Child, 1961










Professor Charles W. Smith died on July 30, 2009. He was 87. Chuck was born in Woodside, New York the son of Charles and Margaret Smith. Throughout his life Chuck loved many things, most especially teaching, art, and his family. Growing up on a small farm during the depression he took a variety of jobs to help his family, including working as a “trick” diver for an amusement park, he spent a year in the Merchant Marine as a cabin boy for ships traveling to Cuba and South America, and eventually worked as a ship welder. In 1943 he joined the Army Air Corps where he learned how to fly and excelled, quickly becoming a flight instructor, and teaching others through 1945. After the war he attended Pratt Institute where he met and fell in love with the love of his life Hepsie Smith, his wife of 63 years. They moved to Seattle in 1949 where Chuck was hired by the University of Washington to direct the Henry Gallery. After taking a one-year leave in 1952 to earn his MFA at Cranbrook, he returned to Seattle. He soon rediscovered his talent for teaching, founded the Industrial Design program at the UW and spent over 40 years teaching sculpture and Industrial Design. He was also the graduate MFA advisor in the Art Department for many years. His love for his students and his dedication to the University is exemplified by the fact that he attended almost every graduation and was the Grand Marshal for over the last 20 years.

In 1953 he was recognized as one of Time Magazine’s “Newsmakers of Tomorrow.” In his 60 years as a professional artist and designer he created a large and diverse body of work. In 1963, he was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to study traditional Japanese sculpture techniques. He and his family moved to Japan for a year and while he was there he also became a design consultant for Honda as they designed their first car for the western market. As he later recounted, he spent most of this time telling them to “make it bigger.” From the late 1970s until the 1990s he primarily worked creating public art, producing numerous sculptures displayed in public spaces and private collections throughout the US and Japan. Perhaps the most prominent of his public pieces in the Northwest is his “Park Sculpture” the large, circular metal piece at the south end of Seattle Central Community College (see image to the left). In the past decade he switched to wood carving, creating dozens of masks and other objects influenced by northwest native designs.

Chuck and Hepsie were founding members of Hilltop Community in south Bellevue. They loved their time there, actively participating in community work parties and potlucks. He and Hepsie designed and built their house on Hilltop and a vacation cabin on Hood Canal. Chuck loved to drive Porsches, drink good wine and have a good laugh over a funny story. He was a kind, loyal and generous man who lived a rich and full life and was loved by everyone who was lucky enough to come to know him. He died of complications from Parkinson’s. He will truly be missed by many: his neighbors from Hilltop, his group of “coffee” friends and most of all, his family. He is survived by his wife Meribah “Hepsie” Smith:, son Evan Smith, his son Owen Smith and Owen’s wife Krista Molnar Smith, his daughter Enid Smith Becker, and her husband Bart Becker and granddaughters Elena Becker and Mary Molnar. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Parkinson’s Research Foundation:


More Photos

Obituary in the Seattle Times

University of Washington Art Department Notice









With much love and many great memories, his son Owen

(and more coming soon so check back). Please send us your memories of Chuck and I will add them to the site as soon as I can.