Gregory was born on June 1, 1956, in Leavenworth, Washington, to Jack and Doreen (née, Beckstrom) Smith. After a year and a half-long battle against glioblastoma, he passed peacefully on May 25th, 2023 in Durham, NC while holding his daughter Claire’s hand. Greg was raised in Ephrata, WA and graduated in 1974 from Ephrata High School. From an early age, Greg developed a caring, compassionate, and creative personality. In 1974, Greg was nominated and accepted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy where he studied general engineering and served as a midshipman in the Pacific waters during Vietnam. Upon an honorable discharge in 1975, he then attended Bethel College (now University, Arden Hills, MN) and graduated with his bachelor’s degree English Literature and Writing in 1978.
Greg pursued a career in Marketing and Public Relations. In 1990, Greg completed his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota from the School of Journalism and received the national award for the Best Master’s Thesis of the Year by the Institute for Public Relations Research and Education. He started his own company and later worked for Padilla Speer Beardsley, working with clients in many industries including government, health care, education, and agriculture.
He married Naomi Ludeman in 1982 and they had three children— Calvin, Madeleine, and Claire. They lived and raised their children primarily in Arden Hills, MN. Greg lived for his family. He enjoyed playing with his children, coaching and taking photos of his children’s sports teams – especially soccer, hockey, and track, and spending summers with his family at the cabin up North on Pelican Lake.
The nature of the beautiful state of Washington instilled a passion for the outdoors that Greg continued while leading camping trips to the Minnesota Boundary Waters in his twenties and brought into family life. Greg enjoyed fishing and hunting deer and pheasants. In 2006, Greg took his self-taught passion for photography and turned it into a business. Greg had a keen eye for action and a quick finger to catch it in a photo. He traveled to swimming meets across the Midwest, Olympic training sites in Colorado and other locations around the country taking photos of athletes. He loved finding his photos published in places like U.S.A Today and ESPN Online that included college athletes, Olympians, and professional athletes. He was a boy, living a dream, when sitting on the floor at the Timberwolves game having athletes like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio tumble into his lap after a spectacular play that Greg snapped seconds before into his frame.
Greg and Naomi moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota in 2014 where Greg had received a job offer in Northern State University’s marketing department. He maintained an active presence in his grandchildren’s life. Together Greg and his grandchildren would have household nerf gun battles, water wars, movie marathons, and watching their basketball & soccer games along with dance practices & recitals. Their house on the lake allowed Greg to continue enjoying being near the water. In 2019, Greg and Naomi moved to Sioux Falls, SD following a job offer at the local zoo. In February 2020, the couple divorced and Greg moved to Whitefish, MT to pursued a passion he had found in horses and equine therapy. He found happiness in the beautiful wilderness, working with horses, fishing and hiking, and the beautiful scenes he was able to capture in his photography.
In December 2021, Greg was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in the right frontal lobe of his brain and was given a month to live. He sought a second opinion from Duke University’s nationally renowned brain surgeons. In January 2022, Greg underwent a successful surgery in Durham, NC – removing all visible aspects of the tumor. Greg then moved to Philadelphia, PA to live with his daughter Madeleine to undergo a heavy chemo and radiation treatment plan. During these months he continued doing things he loved: Attending sporting events, going to dance recitals, and spending time with family. In June 2022, it became apparent that Greg needed a level of care beyond what family could provide and moved into an assisted living community in Durham, NC, near daughter Claire and his oncology team at Duke.
In September 2022, Greg’s tumor grew in size, adding to his confusion, and his physical abilities diminished considerably. In early October, the children decided to shift from treatment to comfort care with a hospice team to assist them. Greg spent the last 8 months in hospice at Claire’s apartment having family and friends come and visit him, spending time watching his favorite TV shows, movies, sports events, and cuddling with Claire’s Labrador Tucker who provided comfort and entertainment.
Greg is survived by children, Calvin Smith (Amanda) of St. Michael, MN, Madeleine a.k.a. Lena Smith of Philadelphia, PA and Claire Smith of Durham, NC; grandchildren, Beau, Henry and Emily Smith (Calvin); mother: Doreen (née, Beckstrom) Smith of Wenatchee, WA; and sister, Lynette Smith of Wenatchee, WA. He is preceded in death by father, Jack Smith; brother, Dwayne Smith; niece: Kjrsten Smith; and beloved dogs, Happy, Tessa, and Ranger.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials in memory of Gregory Smith to the Mink Lake Camp-Coldwater Foundation, PO Box 501, Grand Marais, MN 55604.