OGDEN — The community is mourning the death of a cowboy legend.
Jim Smith, 67, died quietly in his sleep Wednesday morning, reportedly after telling his wife, Paula, he was done fighting.
Smith was diagnosed with angioimmunoblastic lymphoma early in 2011. He had just undergone a round of chemotherapy that damaged his vital organs, according to a family member.
The president of Smith and Edwards, Smith was a longtime supporter of Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo. He was known as a charismatic and generous man who offered a leg up to anyone he thought needed something he had to offer.
“He would do anything for anybody at the drop of his cowboy hat,” said Dan Musgrave, executive director of Downtown Ogden, Inc. “He will leave behind a legacy for the businessmen in the community and the western way of life.”
Larry Crouch told a story he thought captured the essence of his longtime friend.
Crouch said he watched Smith walk away from influential business associates during an Ogden-Weber Chamber Business After Hours event at Pioneer Stadium to help a 7-year-old girl who was struggling to rope a plastic calf head stuck in a bale of hay.
“He took that little girl’s hands in his big, old gnarly hands, and he just kept working with her until she could rope that roping dummy,” he said. “Here’s all these high falutin’ people around, and there’s Jim just doing what he was trying to do. He was just a wonderful, wonderful person.”
Desiree Cooper Larsen, a former Ogden Pioneer Days chairwoman and sponsorship director, said that in the last few years before Smith became ill, he took his rodeo sponsorship literally to getting down into the dirt with the cowboy competitors in the back of the bucking chutes.
“Every time a cowboy got done with his ride, he would hand them a water and tell them what a good job they did,” Larsen said.
“Every specialty act that came into town would ask how to get to Smith and Edwards, because they wanted to get to know him.”
Jerry Shaw, chairman of the Ogden Pioneer Days committee, said the group wanted Smith to be the grand marshal of this year’s celebration.
“It was going to be dependent upon how he felt,” Shaw said. “We were just waiting to see if he would recover enough that he felt like doing it.”
Dave Halverson, past chairman of the rodeo committee, said Smith was a founding member of the Ogden Pioneer Heritage Foundation.
He said Smith worked to keep the right focus on the celebration.
“He helped keep us grounded on those things that are important rather than get caught up in all the pageantry,” Halverson said.
And Halverson said Smith’s influence grew to include his whole family, all of whom have displayed similar support of the rodeo and the community.
Smith’s wife, Paula, each year serves as the backbone of a hospitality effort to provide meals and treats for the cowboys and cowgirls who come to the Ogden rodeo.
“He was one of the most influential in promoting not only the rodeo but the western way of life,” Halverson said.
When interviewed about his contributions in July 2011, Smith talked mostly about his family.
“Our family, it’s our way of life,” he said. “You always know how important family is, but it’s telling them how much you appreciate them and seeing them exercise their talents and potential that’s important.”
Dave Hardman, president of the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce, said Smith’s influence went well beyond the western world.
“He gave a tremendous amount to the community,” he said. “He’s always been so giving.”
Smith’s daughter, Misti Smith Kosoff, put together a blog that kept up with Smith’s fight against cancer. It is at papajimsarmy.blogspot.com.