Weir Mac Cuish Family Funeral Home

144 Salem Street, Malden, MA 02148

A member of the Malden Community since 1896

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James J. "J.J." Smith

1921-2016

 

     James J. Smith, a veteran of both WWII and the newspaper business, passed away peacefully at his home in Wakefield on October 5, 2016, with his loving family at his side. He was 95 years old.

     J.J. was born in Boston on March 23, 1921. Named James Lockhart Downey, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs.  Joseph B. Downey. At the age of two, after his mother died, he was adopted by Hugh and Bertha Smith of Cambridge.

     J.J. was educated in the Watertown school system. His career in journalism began as a junior in high school, when he served as the sports editor for the local town newspaper.

    After Pearl Harbor, he volunteered but was rejected by the Air Force (then known as Army Air Corps) for flight duty because of a deviated septum. He had corrective surgery and thereafter enlisted on April 12, 1942.  He served with the Eighth Air Force, and flew 26 air combat missions as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, where his missions included the Ardennes, the Rhineland, and central Europe. He was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters,  the EAME Medal with three bronze stars, and other decorations, and was discharged November 3, 1945.

   After WWII, he attended Boston University, where he was the goalie on its ice hockey team. He graduated with a B.S. in Journalism in 1948, and then became a reporter for United Press International (UPI), and covered legislatures in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. In 1950, he simultaneously served as UPI Night Editor in Hartford and public relations director for St. Francis Hospital, then the largest Catholic hospital in New England. It was there that he met his future wife, Maureen Carey, who was in the nursing school.

     On August 1, 1953, the couple was married in Jewett City, CT, and soon started a family that eventually included daughter Kathleen, son Carey, and daughter Patricia. The couple was married for 53 years until Maureen’s passing in January 2006.

          J.J. was a member of the public relations team for Prudential Insurance Company from 1957 to 1960. During that time he also started a one-man Massachusetts news syndicate offering weekly editorials, including a statewide political column,  Under the State House Dome, plus a weekly “Thumbnail Thoughts” column, and a teenage advice column. Statewide mailing initially resulted in one daily and five weekly newspapers, and he was eventually published in 62 newspapers for over 25 years. He was awarded an honorary lifetime membership by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

   In 1962, he was appointed Chief Press Secretary for Massachusetts Governor Endicott (Chub) Peabody. Highlights included attending the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, meeting JFK when he came to Boston to select the site of his presidential library, coverage of the sinking of the Andrea Doria, and attending the funeral of JFK.

     In 1965, he started at Boston Herald Traveler newspaper, and covered the Statehouse, federal courts (including major trials such as the famed Dr. Benjamin Spock-Rev. William Sloane Coffin anti-draft conspiracy trial in 1968), and eventually became daily columnist of the popular “Hub Bub” column.

    In 1972, during the Boston school busing crisis, he began a 26-year relationship with the Boston Police Patrolman's Association as Public Relations Director, where he transformed the Association’s “Pax Centurion” newsletter into an influential newspaper. During this period he also started newspapers for state police minority officers associations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He also served as Editor and Publisher of the Labor Action News and the Judicial Forum, and special correspondent for Boston's “Post Gazette”, New England's oldest Italian-American newspaper.

     J.J. had a great and varied career, and cherished the fact that he loved his work and had fun doing it. He traveled to East Berlin and China when both countries had severe travel restrictions under communist rule. He met Presidents, senators, governors, ambassadors, and business giants and entertainers. But his greatest love, and proudest achievement was being a devoted husband, father, and eventually grandfather. He so loved his wife, children, and grandchildren, and they so adored him. He was, and will always be, a central part of his family.

    J.J. was also a big fan of all the Boston sports teams, and especially of BU hockey. Nothing pleased him more than a BU win over BC! J.J. was also an avid reader, and passed that gift to his children and grandchildren. Another gift that he passed along was his love of animals, and particularly dogs. He believed that a person who never had a dog in his life never really knew what how great life is.

   A Memorial service will be held in the Weir-MacCuish Golden Rule Funeral Home, 144 Salem St.,  MALDEN, on Sat., Oct. 22, 2016 at 12PM.  Visiting hours have been omitted. In lieu of flowers contributions in J.J.’s memory may be made to the Buddy Dog Humane Society, Wayland, MA.  

 

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