Norwich bids former Cadet Mo Smith adieu

Having spent a career in the Army traveling everywhere from Hawaii, Germany, Japan, Chicago, and back again to Northfield, Vt., Maurice “Mo” Smith accomplished just about everything one could hope to accomplish in a lifetime.

During World War II, he spent time teaching young troops how to maintain and fix tanks for the Army. Upon retirement he returned home to maintain the family business of owning and operating drive-in movie theatres.

Mo accomplished many things during his lifetime. He made a career for himself, had a family, and gave back annually to the institution he was most proud of, Norwich University, making him a lifetime member of the Alden Partridge Society, for donating over $20,000 back to the school.

Colonel Maurice H. Smith passed away on Sunday, February 4th, 2018.

However, during his 106-year life, he never did manage to learn how to change a tire, said Wade Smith, Mo’s grandson. To be, not to be. The eternal question still remains the exact same.

Mo Smith was born in Hyde Park, Vermont on the 11th of July 1911, Reverend William Wick, the Norwich University Chaplain said. “For high school he attended the Peoples Academy in Morrisville, Vt., From there, he followed his older brother, the late Phillip Smith, to Norwich University.”

He graduated as part of the class of 1934, said Wick, in the interim years between his graduation and the war, he was married to Isabel Smith, formerly Daniels, on the 2nd of January 1939.

“He went from the First Armored Division to later the 4th Armored, the 10th Armored, and back to the First Armored Divisions throughout his career,” Wade Smith said. “It was in 1944 that he served at the Armored School in Fort Knox as the supervisor of instruction in the tank department.”

Mo had a habit of telling the same, “or very, very, similar,” stories about his life and his adventures to us grandchildren, said Wade. It seems that he managed to pass that talent down to them.

Reverend Wick continued the anecdote of Mo’s life in explanation of how involved Mo remained in the Norwich community following his return from serving on active duty in the United States Army in the spring of 1954.

The Rev spoke of Mo’s tours of duty through Hawaii as part of a flame-thrower group to Germany where Mo attended the Nuremberg trials to Japan where he was sent to serve as part of a logistical command. From there, he was sent to the Fifth Army Headquarters in Chicago, Ill., from which he was retired.

“He managed to make donations every year of his life following his graduation, he was involved in our community from activities during each and every Alumni Weekend, all the way through every holiday season when we went caroling through the community,” Wick stated, “we started the evening singing at his house every year and he even joined in with us.”

“Our caroling group always started with the school’s alma mater, “Norwich Forever”, and Mo would join in with us. He knew the whole song, every verse, even if some of us did not,” the Reverend added with a short pause to recover himself, “I sure will miss stopping first at his home when we go out caroling again this holiday season.” Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. One, two, three.

The recognizable alum on the golf cart was a man of the ages. He always had a smile on his face and a story to tell, he loved Norwich as an institution and everything each man stood for, stated Wade.

“My grandfather asked me to be the one do this some twenty years ago,” Wade mentioned in regard to being the family member to give Mo’s eulogy at his funeral, “it has been something I have had thoughts of and dreaded daily ever since.”

Wade furthered his dread in his tale of how Mo had made it easier on him to give a eulogy as he had provided Wade with a list of things that he had wanted to have mentioned when he was described. “What he really wanted,” Wade regaled, “was an eleven-part documentary on his life to show for the ages.”

This documentary, Wade told, would include hardship, tragedy, and comedy and could be something that many viewers as a whole could relate to.

Before his eulogy, Wade paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, settle his emotions, and look out to those who had attended his grandfather’s service. He smiled as he noticed that many varieties of people were in attendance from cadets, to the Regimental Band, to family members, to members of Mo’s congregation, as well as the president of Norwich University.

“If you wanted to purposely overwhelm someone, you couldn’t do better than that. Amazing job,” Wade said as he spoke of the processional of cadets standing in solidarity that had lined the walkway from Jackman Hall to White Memorial Chapel in grey tunics with white trousers, shoulder to shoulder, “I will never forget it.”

The family of Mo and the staff and faculty in attendance were very thankful and in awe of what the cadets had done to honor Mo.

“Even the things that seem small that you do here, have a great and lasting impact, thank you,” said Reverend Wick.

Wick continued the tales of all Mo had been involved in following the eulogy given by Mo’s grandson, Wade.

“The Nuremberg trials and all. Mo lived Norwich and all of its values to a tee,” Reverend Wick said, “he returned for eighteen years as a faculty member in addition to running the family business.”

Cadets have small things that continue to bond them together, Wick explained. When Mo was a student at Norwich, his faculty Academic Advisor was K.R.B. Flint. Cadets through modern times understand the significance of who K.R.B. Flint is as he is the man who drafted the Norwich Cadet’s Creed which is still recited today.

“I believe in Norwich, my Alma Mater, because within her halls throughout the years, these tenets have found expression, while men have been taught to be loyal to duly constituted authority in thought and word and deed; to view suffrage as a sacred privilege to be exercised only in accordance with the dictates of conscience; to regard public office as a public trust; and finally to fight, and if need be to die, in defense of the cherished institutions of America.”

These are amongst words written by K.R.B. Flint as part of the Norwich Cadet’s Creed, mentioned Wick, “it is neat to consider that Mo was someone who knew the man that wrote these words and that he was also someone who recited these words with pride.”

The words that precede the aforementioned are “I believe that the cardinal virtues of the individual are courage, honesty, temperance, and wisdom; and that the true measure of success is service rendered—to God, to Country, and to Mankind.

I believe that the fundamental problem of society is to maintain a free government wherein liberty may be secured through obedience to law, and that a citizen soldiery is the cornerstone upon which such a government must rest.

I believe that real education presupposes a sense of proportion in physical, mental, and moral development; and that he alone is educated who has learned the lessons of self-control and open-mindedness,” according to the Norwich University Cadet’s Handbook and written by K.R.B. Flint in 1903.

These words were something that Mo lived by and took pride in knowing, according to Wade, the Norwich motto, “I Will Try,” was something the family always heard a lot of.

Wade continued his tale of pride in his grandfather’s history during his eulogy given at the service as well as at the recession that followed thereafter. He remarked on the pride that he had given that his grandfather was able to take a piece of the school with him. Richard W. Schneider, 23rd President of Norwich University, laid to rest with Mo, one of his challenge coins.

“A Norwich man’s tale is always one of pride, dedication, and service in some form or another” Reverend Wick remarked.

His grandson Wade agreed, mentioning the difference that he saw from his grandfather and many other Army and Norwich men when they changed out of civilian attire.

The last line spoken by Wade of Mo’s given eulogy left the room in solemn agreeance. “When he put on his uniform he stood up a little straighter, spoke with a voice a little deeper, and left some of his silliness in his other trousers.”

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