Tedd Smith, last president of Beacon Blankets, dies at 72
Residents of the Swannanoa Valley may have seen Tedd Smith hanging from a helicopter by a blanket or scuba diving in a shark tank constructed by blankets.
Widely recognized as the face of Beacon Blankets, Smith volunteered to hang from a helicopter by a blanket to show the strength of the material for an ad campaign.
Smith, the last president of Beacon Blankets, died Jan. 31 at the age of 72.
"He was the most wonderful man," said Gail Smith, Tedd's wife.
In his obituary, courtesy of Harwood Home for Funerals, Smith is described as eternally optimistic. He was widely known to the community and "never met a stranger." He treated everyone he met as a friend and always rooted for the underdog.
Rebecca Williams, a documentarian who recently completed a film covering the rise and fall of Beacon, got to know Smith over the years. She described him as very generous, energetic and a "force of nature."
Throughout the filmmaking process, Williams spoke with Smith on numerous occasions, learning of his passion for the Swannanoa Valley and, of course, for Beacon. She said she couldn't imagine Smith as anything but a salesman, challenging anyone to resist his persistence.
"He was someone who could connect so easily with people," Williams said. "He could make people feel really at home and really comfortable."
Even after Beacon closed, Smith kept memorabilia from the company, including a license plate, flag and favorite workbench of the employees. The community he cared for made up his company and the place he lived, according to Williams.
When the company went bankrupt, Smith kept it going in any form he could, reproducing genuine Beacon products to keep the community alive for those involved as much as possible. Prior to his death, he had begun rebuilding the Beacon brand in order to maintain the legacy of the company within the community.
"He always enjoyed a good joke and story," described his family in his obituary. "He enjoyed time with his family above all else."
Smith was preceded in death by his parents, Ruth Ballard Smith and Shelby Lee Smith. He is survived by his wife, Gail, of 34 years, his brother, Doug Smith of Pinehurst, his children, Mary-Catherine Pisano and Shelly Smith Cloninger and their families, five grandchildren and a numerous array of friends.
Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at email@example.com.