Douglas Tom Smart


Douglas Tom Smart, 81, of Bemidji, MN died March 11, 2021, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, AZ. He passed away unexpectedly and quickly from a lower abdominal aortic aneurysm. (Located between your stomach and kidneys)

Doug was born February 28, 1940, in Bemidji, MN to Thomas Albert and Helen Rosalie (Holthusen) Smart . He was the eldest of their 4 children. He lived in the Bemidji area for almost his entire life.

In his younger years, Doug delivered the local paper on his bike. Just like any young kid in Bemidji, he enjoyed ice cream from Mr. Parks, at the Parks Creamery. When he delivered their paper Mr. Parks would say, “young lad, come in and have ice cream.”

He attended Bemidji High School (class of ’58), Bemidji State University and Minneapolis Vocational School where he became a draftsman. While attending Minneapolis Vocational School, he worked nights as a janitor at Franklin Refrigeration to pay his tuition and rent. Soon afterwards he got a job at Control Data and then Howell Richardson Scale Company on Nicolet Island designing scales. It was at this point in his life he knew he was not meant to be in an office all day. He loved meeting people, talking to everyone and being out and about, not behind a desk!

It was there in Minneapolis that he would meet his future wife, Gloria (Wilkens) Smart. They married on November 2nd, 1963, in Wisconsin and moved to Bemidji.

Doug leaves behind a legacy that is remember by many, but most people know him for two businesses: Northern Amusement and Smart Skate. Northern Amusement, a coin operated game business (video games, pinball, pool, darts) in bars and restaurants, was founded by his father, which Doug eventually purchased. Northern Amusement is still operating today under new ownership. Smart Skate, a roller-skating rink, was founded in the fall of 1980. Almost every kid of the 80’s in the Bemidji area spent time there. While it has been 27 years since the sale of Smart Skate, just the mention of Smart Skate still brings smiles to peoples’ faces.

Doug and Gloria travelled a lot, for both business and pleasure. While they travelled all over the world, they returned annually to Mazatlán Mexico for more than 30 years. There they made many lifelong family friends. While getting ready for any of these trips, Doug had a common phrase for the packing process, “That isn’t going to fit! You can’t put 10 pounds of s*^# into a 5-pound bag.” He also told many people, “We didn’t have to lock the house door because Gloria brought everything except the kitchen sink.”

For 27 years, Doug was a volunteer firefighter and made many close friends with his fellow firefighters. Other passions include snowmobiling and curling at the Bemidji Curling Club

Doug and Gloria are long time members of the First Lutheran Church of Bemidji. For many years Doug helped First Lutheran Church transitioned to their summer schedule at Beltrami County Fair Grounds. This included retrieving and returning the outdoor pulpit out of storage. He was responsible for testing and sometimes fixing the equipment. Making sure that church goers, who were sitting in their car like a drive in-movie, could hear the sermon over their car radios.

In 2011, Doug was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). In January 2012, he received a bone marrow transplant. Doug is one of the lucky few who has a sibling (Heidi Gall) which was a perfect donor match. He got his transplant at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis. After the transplant, they spent 118 days & nights at the Hope Lodge, a not-for-profit organization that provides housing for cancer patients and their caregivers. During his treatment he had to be with-in 30 miles of the UOM with a caregiver, Gloria. Gloria was relieved several times by a couple of Doug’s friends and relatives; they will know who they are when they read this. Doug always said, “it wasn’t a piece of cake.” In the months and years that followed, they traveled back to the UOM medical center for check-ups and evaluations up to the time his death.

He was certainly a man of all trades and expert handyman. When one would ask him if he could fix something, his reply would be, “I can fix anything except a broken heart.” 

He is survived by his Wife, Gloria; Children Todd (Julia) Smart (IL) and Toni (Trent) Stewart (WA); 5 grandchildren, Olivia, Lyla, Rebecca, Jack, and Mackenzie; Siblings, Terry (Miriam) Smart (BJI), JoAnn Black (AZ), and Heidi (Dennis) Gall (SD). He is preceded in death by his parents: Thomas “Al” and Helen Smart. 

In keeping with Doug’s wishes, in lieu of flowers and a funeral service, there will be small gathering of his immediate family and family friends at Greenwood Cemetery in Bemidji, MN Saturday, July 31st at 11am.

A celebration of Life will be held July 31st from 2 pm - 5 pm at Wilton Liquor Store.  Please don’t wear the color black. Doug didn’t like that color. Now think back, did you ever see him wear black? Nope, me either. He liked bright colors and Tommy Bahama pattern shirts.

Please be ready to tell your stories and one liner from your memories with Doug. Like this one, “If I would’ve known I was gonna live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.”

In honor of Doug, memorials should be made out to the organizations name with Doug’s name on the memo line. Memorials can be of your choice to First Lutheran Church, 900 Bemidji Ave N., Bemidji, MN 56601 or Great River Rescue, 1612 Carr Lake Rd SE, Bemidji, MN 56601 (animal rescue).

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