Motor man Cliff Smith dead at 75

September 21, 2011

Cliff Smith, who got his start washing cars and went on to build a long-standing auto dealership in Hood River, died Sept. 9 in Las Vegas, Nev.

From May 1982 to November 2010 Cliff Smith Motors operated in Hood River.

Clifton J. Smith Sr., who was born Feb. 2, 1936, is survived by his wife, Georgia, his four children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

The family has announced a memorial service for noon, Sept. 22, at Anderson's Tribute Center. Please see page A6 for an obituary.

Smith was born in Texas and served in the Army in Germany for four years. When he returned to the U.S. he wanted to check out the West Coast and he visited a cousin in The Dalles, liked the community and decided to stay. In 1956 Smith went to work as a salesman for Harlan Griffith Ford in The Dalles, and stayed with the company when Ray Schultens purchased it in 1964. Smith was later made general manager of Fort Dalles Nissan.

Smith bought Byers Motors on Tucker Road and renamed the business Cliff Smith Pontiac-Buick-GMC.

"I've always wanted to do it," he said of his dealership purchase, in the May 4, 1983, Hood River News. "When I saved enough money to get into it, I decided to give it a shot."

"He was a character; he loved to talk to people and Cliff was everybody's friend," said Bob Schultens, owner of Ray Schultens Auto, whose father, Bob, hired Smith.

Schultens said that he and Smith remained friends and business confidants after Smith went out on his own.

"He was a good businessman, starting out as he did as a lot worker and working up to used salesman and then sales manager," Schultens said. "He did really well at that, especially considering in the early days around here he had to fight the bigotry that was around here. He did a really good job of it, because he was just a people person.

"You don't do what Cliff did unless you've got lots of work ethic and fortitude."

In 1986, Smith bought Owens Chevrolet on West Cascade and merged the stores, making Cliff Smith Motors a full line General Motors dealership which he owned and operated for over 26 years. (The company later became independent, terminating its General Motors franchise in January 2009.)

In 1987, Smith moved his dealership from the Heights to the West Cascade location.

In March 2009, General Motors Acceptance Corporation Financial Services visited Hood River to give Smith an award for 25 uninterrupted years with GMAC.

"I can't believe it's been 25 years; it all went so fast," Smith said in a Hood River News article. "Hood River and the Gorge have been very good to me and the business and I thank the community for their support over the years."

A GMAC spokesman said, "His is a rare accomplishment which has taken place over a period that has seen many others come and go in the automotive business."

Cliff Smith Motors closed in 2010, after outlasting two other dealerships in Hood River. (Hood River Chrysler Jeep Dodge closed in 2008 and Hood River Ford Mercury in December 2007.)

In 2011, Bob Stone Auto Center opened at the same location, in front of the building that long held the name Cliff Smith Motors.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



Log in to comment

Columbia Gorge news and businesses