IRH - Tom Smart

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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IRH - Tom Smart

Post by David » Wed September 18, 2019, 4:54 pm

Tom Smart
the family friend
1950's - 2001
by: Russ Lancaster
I walked into Mabry’s Drug Store in June 2000 looking for owner-pharmacist Tom Smart. He wasn’t there. I wasn’t told much more than that but knew something was wrong. Tom had always been there for my family in times of crisis.
I first remember him as Tommy as we called him in Sunday School at Hamlet’s First Baptist Church back around 1949 or 1950. He was a member of our class taught by Mr. Tyner. There were several of us in that class that stuck together until we graduated High School. Heck, we even graduated Mr. Tyner along with us through the grade processions in Sunday School. Looking back over 50 years, I can see that Tom had leadership abilities way back then.
In High School, Tom again was a leader of our class. He wasn’t the best athlete or the smartest student. Most leaders really aren’t. But he was the person we looked to for advice on most anything and Tom usually had the right answer.
He was popular among all our student body. He embraced us all and treated all equally, girls, boys, rich, poor, smart, not so smart. Tom never snubbed anyone nor did he avoid anyone.
He lettered in baseball, football and basketball in High School. Again, he may not have been the best athlete on any team but he was more than good enough to play his position and his leadership skills were the very best.
He played both Pony League and American Legion baseball for my dad’s teams. My dad often told stories about Tommy and they usually were in regard to his dependability. Little did we know way back then that Tom’s dependability would directly affect my family 30 years later in 1988 and 1989.
Tom and I went separate ways in early June 1959. I went off to the Air Force, he would soon depart for college where he would learn the skills that would again bind him to our family.
Tom became a pharmacist, married a lovely lady named Margaret, had children and eventually became owner of the famous Mabry’s Drug Store on Main Street. His drug store was a popular place to shop. He had good people working for him, people like Brenda Putnam and others.
Tom made sure those in need got their medicine whether or not they had the money at time. I know personally that Helga and I had an account there for years and if we fell behind we could walk in with our heads held high. Tom would not mention an outstanding bill, instead he would ask what he could do for you. And it wasn’t because we had known each other for so many years, he was like that to everyone I know.
Tom’s popularity was noticed by others. He was elected Mayor of Hamlet and served the city well. On three separate occasions, he intervened on my behalf when city or county services fell lack in responding to situations in my neighborhood that needed tending to. When I ran into a wall of red tape, I called Tom and on all three occasions, the problem was handled the same day. Dependability, a trait personalized by Tom and noticed by all who knew him.
When Tom’s son began playing American Legion baseball for Hamlet’s Post 49, Tom showed his support by being present at every home game as the play by play announcer. His voice and reporting of the game had a part in filling the park with thousands of fans on summer evenings. My mom and dad as well as my wife, my children and I spent many of those evenings at the ball park enjoying baseball at its best.
When I moved from Hamlet to Jacksonville in the early Spring of 1988, my dad was dying of cancer. If you have read many of my stories you know about that and how he and I reached a decision over my move, a decision most of my family will never understand. I only mention it here to set you up for the next part of this story and how Tom again stood up for my family when in time of need.
As 1988 ended, I said my final coherent good-byes to my dad. He and I both knew he had no more than a few weeks left to live. As I left Hamlet that Christmas my dad’s condition quickly worsened. He would live less than another month.
Tom Smart stood in for my family and me during those awful times. He provided the medicine needed to keep my father from pain. He supplied the hospital bed found in the house. My father had made it plain he did not want to die in a hospital. Tom saw to it that didn’t happen. When I was called back for the last three days of my dad’s life, Tom was a constant visitor to our house. He offered comfort in a time that comfort was so dearly needed.
Eleven years later it was when I walked into Mabry’s in June of 2000 where I first started this story. My mom had just passed away and I had not seen Tom come by the house. I needed someone to talk with other than family so I had walked from her house on Bauersfeld Street down Main Street to see my old friend Tom.
Being told he wasn’t there was enough to let me know he must have been having a problem. I didn’t know at the time but his wife Margaret was in another hospital in another city at the same time. She too had been given only a limited time left to live and Tom was with her. She too would soon pass away.
Tom would not be there for me, nor would I be there for him. He lost his wife, I lost my mom within months of each other. We both had our family and other friends that saw us through those difficult days and then we sort of lost contact with one another. It was not by choice, it just happened that way.
Then, in the Summer of 2001, I received an email from Tom apologizing for not being around for my family when my mom had died. That says a lot about Tom’s character. It was still on his mind a year later.
As I read his email, I thought…. Did I ever thank him personally even once for all he had done for me and my family throughout the years? I couldn’t honestly answer the question so I responded with heartfelt thanks.
Tom would probably be embarrassed to read this small tribute I have written about him. And, I didn’t write it to embarrass him. I write this as another way of saying "Thanks" to another of Hamlet’s great people that know how to look after one another. I write it to bring to your mind that you too most likely have someone in your life outside your family that has brought you comfort and friendship when you least expected it and when you most needed it.
And I write it to say, "I remember Tom Smart"…. and as always – I remember Hamlet

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