Christchurch earthquake: Smitty's humour lingers for family and friends

By Isaac Davison

Liz Smith is comforted by two of her sons as she follows the casket of her husband Christopher after his funeral service at the Leeston Rugby Club yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker
Liz Smith is comforted by two of her sons as she follows the casket of her husband Christopher after his funeral service at the Leeston Rugby Club yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker

The four teenage sons of earthquake victim Christopher Smith remembered their dad as a man who exemplified the Outward Bound motto, "To strive, to seek and not to yield".

"Smitty", as his friends and family knew him, was killed by the February 22 earthquake soon after dropping off his son Dean at school.

He was remembered as an adventurer, a fishing enthusiast and, most of all, a joker.

Dean said his father had been joking and laughing on the Tuesday morning as he drove him to class.

The magnitude-6.3 quake struck Christchurch later that afternoon.

"Why weren't you two blocks away?" his son asked yesterday. "Why now? Why not in 20 years?"

Mr Smith's brother Michael said the family struggled with his premature death but that Smitty had left four proud teenage boys, who showed signs of their father's warmth and his irreverence.

Eldest son Mark said his dad had prepared his children for life, and they would now be able to look after their mother.

Mr Smith was a passionate rugby player, coach and manager, and was farewelled in a Requiem Mass at the packed Leeston Rugby Club by a crowd of 500.

He was a competent winger, where one friend remembered he could sneak a cigarette or even a nip of port from the sideline in his later playing days.

He had been heavily involved in Cubs and Scouts, and tried his hand at tae kwon do.

Raised in Timaru, he attended Sacred Heart, before being schooled at St Thomas' in Christchurch. He worked for PlaceMakers in Christchurch, before emigrating to Australia, where he worked for Whittakers, Coopers Tools and Bosch.

Mr Smith recently returned with his family to Leeston, half an hour southwest of Christchurch.

He was working in the city for Bosch when the quake struck.

Leeston's adoption of Mr Smith was evident in the overflowing rugby club yesterday.

One of Mr Smith's friends pointed this out by invoking a Maori proverb. "Ask me what is the greatest thing in the world, I will reply: It is people, it is people, it is people. Chris truly understood this."

- NZ Herald

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