We Remember

Aaron “Sneezy” Smith:

A GHS Giant

and His Alumni Association Legacy


Our friend, and a true alumni giant, Aaron “Sneezy” Smith passed away on October 10, 2023. We mourn his passing while, at the same time, we celebrate his life and legacy. Acknowledging his long suffering that never dampened his spirit, the alumni association officers recognize him for a special “Czar Award.” He exemplified what Smith himself wanted to recognize in those receiving the Czar Award: “the fortitude to fight and persevere in what life might throw at them.” More on that later…

Since the rebirth of the alumni association in 1984, Smith was persistently active in leading the annual alumni golf outing until 2020. Not only was his 35-year long successful activity a joy-filled experience for golfers who came back year after year because of Smith’s prodding. The annual golf outing has also been an annual fund-raising activity that benefitted many GHS alumni with Alumni Association scholarships to continue their educations following GHS graduation.

Just a few years ago (2019) Smith looked back on his history with the alumni association. He remembered the summer of 1984. Garrett alumni enthusiastically gathered that July for their very first modern-day alumni reunion. That weekend Smith, GHS Class of 1959, and his team won the first prize golf trophy, which, he admitted, he continued to prominently display for the next three plus decades.

His golf team’s 1984 victory came in an event that grew over the years into an increasingly popular competition for alumni every July. Smith would continue to lead the annual golf outing for decades until 2020. That year the Alumni Association permanently named it in his honor: the “Aaron “Sneezy” Smith Annual Alumni Golf Outing.” We hoist a banner with this name, his name, at every summer alumni association golf outing.

According to Smith, approximately 40 golfers participated during the first (1984) and second (1985) reunions, numbers that dropped to about 30 the third year. In those early years with no organizational structure, the golf outing was simply a call to alums to “Come and play!” Participation dropped to just 4 teams soon thereafter; and ultimately, he claimed, a mere 16 golfers showed up with their clubs.

At this point, perhaps the fourth or fifth reunion, Smith said he decided, on his own, to aggressively build it up. No one asked. He wrote persuasive articles for the Garrett Clipper to increase publicity for the event ahead of time. Personally, he spread the word both face to face and on the phone. After alumni weekend was over he wrote long stories about the golfers for the Garrett Clipper.

He recalled that the number of golfers dramatically increased over the next few years to a high of 60 golfers for the 9-hole course in the late 1980s. When the Garrett Country Club doubled the size of the course from 9 holes to 18 in 1994, the number of golfers grew to 90 and then beyond. In his last year as leader, 2019, Smith welcomed approximately 130 golfers. Continuing the growth of the golf outing meant continuing

growth in the association’s scholarship fund as well. Over the years he helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the fund.

Each year, he reflected, the most “emotional part of the day” was awarding the Czar trophy. Smith described this award as given to “the person who has consistently attended and supported the alumni golf outing; who brings honor to GHS; and, who shows the fortitude to fight and persevere in what life might throw at them.” Smith himself chose the golfer for this recognition. The Czar Award tradition began at the very first reunion in 1984 when Smith himself received the award from alum Roger Neighborgall, GHS Class of 1941.


Even though the alumni association annually distributes registration forms for the annual golf outing, many golfers had traditionally just waited for Smith’s call to remind them to send in their money, to get on a team. With him it was mostly personal, he said. He developed a pattern of being accessible to golfers, knowing who to put on what team, and assigning teams to the appropriate level of skill. Following alumni weekend each year, he enjoyed writing his eagerly anticipated article for the Garrett Clipper. Over the years Smith’s articles became a tradition. Smith said the readers of the Clipper like “the stuff I write in the paper. I have a handle on the BS. I keep my ears open on the golf course, enabling me to tell stories!”

As a well-known story-teller, he would appreciate our going back to the beginnings of his own story. Smith was born in Garrett, on October 10, 1941, to Buford and Marguerite (Dirr) Smith. His life of service, science, exploration, and adventure unfolded over the next several decades.

After graduating from Garrett High School in the Class of 1959, he promptly joined the U.S. Navy on a “minority cruise” at the age of 17. He served as a weatherman at Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island in Washington, where he developed a love for adventure. Following his Navy service, he graduated from Indiana University in 1968, with a degree in Geology, spending his summers working on the B&O railroad in his father’s footsteps. He was later employed by Ottawa Silica Company to search for sand deposits around the country where he would camp out and enjoy nature. Later he moved to Australia, for the same kind of work. There he became interested in opals, and later moved back to the U.S. to import them. This led to his becoming involved in the jewelry business in Chicago, where he lived from 1975 through 2012. He then moved back to Garrett to care for his aging mother, and continued to live in his boyhood home on Guilford Street and to socialize with his boyhood friends…….And, lucky for all of us – to continue to lead the Alumni Association’s Annual Golf Outing with his unwavering gregarious spirit and his joy in storytelling!

Those guiding annual alumni golf outings in the future will likely try out some new methods. Times change. But the strong spirit of Aaron “Sneezy” Smith will persevere in all the golfers during all the alumni reunions in all decades to come. Thank you, and Rest in Peace, Sneezy.


By Carolyn S. Ridenour (GHS Class of 1960) and Bob Johoski (GHS Class of 1960).

We acknowledge content (in two paragraphs prior to the final paragraph) from obituary published by Thomas Funeral Home, Garrett, Indiana.