He graduated from The Clemson Agricultural College in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture-Entomology and a commission in the U.S. Army. He went on to receive Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Entomology from Cornell University. During World War II he served as an officer in the European Theater and retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a colonel.
In 1998, Ed and his wife of 64 years, Janet Ritchie Smith, moved from Ithaca, NY, to Asheville, NC, for what he described as their “late harvest” years. Here they made new friends, connected with old ones, and continued their work on the biography of entomological pioneer Charles Valentine Riley. He served on the Board of Visitors of Warren Wilson College and continued to write in his capacity as the “elder statesman and historian” of the Entomological Society of America. From raising Imperial Moth caterpillars for a granddaughter’s first grade class, to sampling new tomato varieties developed at the Fletcher Experimental Station, to picnics at The NC Arboretum, his love for and fascination with the natural world was boundless.
Ed’s entomological career began as an agricultural extension agent working with fruit growers in New York State’s Finger Lakes Region. In 1964 he was named Chairman of the Entomology Department at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, NC. He was an early advocate for the writings of Rachel Carson and testified against the excessive use of DDT at U.S. Senate hearings in the 1960s. He returned to Cornell University in 1967 to become Director of Cooperative Extension for New York State, shepherding that agency through the financial trials following New York City’s declaration of bankruptcy during the 1970s. He ended his career where it began, at Cornell’s Comstock Hall as chairman of the Entomology Department. His knowledge and expertise took him to Afghanistan, China, Kenya, Thailand, Peru, and Malawi where he worked to improve the quality and quantity of food production in those countries. Throughout his life he was a tireless advocate for the environment, instilling in his children, grandchildren and extended family a love of and respect for nature.
In addition to his beloved wife Janet, he is survived by four children: Janet Smith Moore of Asheville and her husband Parker Moore; Rebecca Cothran Smith and her husband Keith Mendelson of McLean, VA; Joel Allen Smith and his wife Katherine Megrue Smith of Pottersville, NJ; and Jane McNaughton Smith of Arlington, VA. His legacy is in the capable hands of the next generation in whom he had so much faith: his grandchildren – Daniel, 25; Hannah, 25; Amelia, 23; Samuel, 21; Lydia, 20; Henry, 19; Laureana, 17; Edward, 15; Allen, 13; and Sarah, 11; nieces and nephews, their children and grandchildren.
A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held for family and friends on August 18, 2012, at 11 a.m. at St. Giles Chapel, Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Center, Asheville, NC. Donations in his memory can be made to the Evelyn Claassen Fund, which supports Cornell’s entomology collection (Evelyn Claassen Fund, Albert R. Mann Library, 237 Mann Drive, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853), The Cornell Plantations (now.cornell.edu/plantations/) or The North Carolina Arboretum (www.ncarboretum.org).
“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” Sarah Williams