A remarkable life building community.
The public is invited to join the celebration of the incredible life and legacy of Bill Smith at Hayden Homes Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. Please wear your brightest colors and bring your biggest smiles. Refreshments and chairs will be provided, but seating is first-come, first-serve.
"BILLY DAY" CELEBRATION DATE: Tuesday, May 23, 2023 LOCATION: Hayden Homes Amphitheater CELEBRATION: 1 to 3 p.m.
Bill Smith, the visionary behind the Old Mill District and Hayden Homes Amphitheater, passed away in his sleep on Friday, Nov. 18. He was 81 years old.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Trish; daughter Marney; son Matt; grandchildren Sabra, Gus, Harry, Vivian, Franny, and Eddie; his sister Mary Anne, son-in-law Scott, daughter-in-law Dara, and scores of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends.
Billy, as he was affectionately called by those closest to him, will be remembered by friends and family for his love of animals, flowers, poetry, music, education and humor. He adored “old time country music”, bluegrass, gospel, and Elvis. He was particularly fond of the poems of Ogden Nash, Shel Silverstein, and the wit of The Far Side.
In 1993, Bill and six other investors bought 270 acres of abandoned mill property that eventually became the Old Mill District and Hayden Homes Amphitheater. The mixed-use development has become emblematic of Bend’s evolving economy over the past 30 years as it moved from timber and the wood industries to recreation and tourism.
His drive and dedication were unmatched because he loved everything about what he was doing. His intensity was legendary. When asked when he’d retire, he would say he was taking his retirement “five minutes at a time.”
His efforts in developing what had been a brownfield site into the Old Mill District earned him a Phoenix Award in 2002 from the Environmental Protection Agency. While the Old Mill District became William Smith Properties’ most visible project, Bill ensured his company was built upon an entirely diverse portfolio. Today WSPI, managed by his team of more than 20 employees, has ongoing development and management projects in the Tri-Cities, Washington area; multiple office complexes in Bend; a development partnership with Central Oregon Community College; and manages and operates two historic cattle ranches in Central and Eastern Oregon. Millsite Landscape Services, which helps keep the Old Mill District and neighborhoods throughout Central Oregon beautiful, is also part of the WSPI family.
Bill loved his work. He always said that “’work’ is what I have to do when I’d rather being doing something else … and I don’t ‘work’ very much.” He kept office hours seven days a week, often starting in the wee hours of the morning, to well past dinner time. His light was always on. His drive and dedication were unmatched because he loved everything about what he was doing. His intensity was legendary. When asked when he’d retire, he would say he was taking his retirement “five minutes at a time.”
Throughout his lifetime Bill served on a number of boards, including Crown Pacific, Deschutes Land Trust, Deschutes River Conservancy, Endeavor Capital, Les Schwab Tires, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the Oregon Water Trust, the Oregon Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and Nosler. He and his wife Trish also championed Oregon Public Broadcasting, Central Oregon Community College, Oregon State University Cascades Campus, OWEB, the Oregon Community Foundation, and St. Charles. If fact, after his partnership with Sister Catherine Hellmann of St. Charles and their successful efforts to secure land where St. Charles now sits, Billy became an honorary member of the Sisters of St. Joseph “second to nun.”
Billy loved music, people and flowers and believed building a beautiful district with a music venue where the community could gather improved the quality of life in Bend. One of his goals was to create a community where the economy could support good jobs for the future and children would not have to move away to find work and education. He believed part of the magic of Bend is that we’re friendly to each other and take the time to smile. Everywhere he traveled he spent time picking up litter, picking weeds, and planting flowers. He had trays of sunflower seeds he hand collected from ranches throughout Oregon which he would broadcast on his walks.
On your next walk be like Bill, notice the flowers, pick up the litter and smile at a stranger. Happy trails.