The Three Hats of Jordy
I want to talk about Jordy’s hats. Not his actual physical hats. That would take all day. He had a lot of hats. He had hats for every occasion. Sara grudgingly admitted that any hat looked good on Jordan.
“It’s so annoying,” she would say. “Anything looks good on him.”
No matter where they went, Jordan would find a hat to buy.
Paul told a story about a time he went kayaking with Jordan. He pulled up to the water’s shore and Jordan was unloading two kayaks. He smiled as he saw Paul get out of his truck.
Jordan pointed at his new hat.
“What do you think of my new kayaking hat, Paul?”
“What happened to your other kayaking hat?”
“Oh that one? That is my ‘It might rain’ kayaking hat. This is my ‘Sunny all day’ kayaking hat.”
Paul looked confused. “What’s the difference?”
Jordy put on the explaining face, “Well, my ‘It might rain’ kayaking hat is water proof and has strings and flaps to keep me dry.” Jordy took off his present hat and looked it over. “This one. This is my ‘Sunny all day’ kayaking hat. It has a wide brim all around to protect my neck from sunburn and protect my nose from sunburn too.”
Jordan smiled back at Paul and put his hat back on.
Paul scoffed, “Well what if it rains today.”
“It’s not going to rain today.”
“Well, how can you tell?”
Jordan s pointed to his head, “You can tell by the hat!”
Let’s not talk about his physical hats. I want to talk about three metaphorical hats he wore in his life. Those hats are:
• Family member,
Jordy as a Family Member:
He wore the hat of a beloved son. He wore the hat of an often adored son in law.
Nephew and cousin; he was that too.
He was also a brother. A brother to the Smiths, a brother to many a Bissell, he was a brother freemason, a brother EMT, and a brother to the firefighters.
He had a family of teachers at Riverbend as well.
His friends were his family. Every single one of them.
But to be fair to all of us, his favorite family hat though was that of a husband. Sara was everything to him.
When he was a freshman in high school he saw the forlorn face of one of his classmates. Jordy approached him to ask what was wrong. His classmate told him that he was having such a problem. What problem? The biggest problem a ninth grader would have. There was a girl that liked him and he just did not like her.
Jordy gave an empathetic nod and instructed him to point her out to him next time they were in the hallway between classes.
A few hours later when Jordan was at his locker, his classmate tapped him on the shoulder. Jordan turned and his friend pointed down the crowded hallway to a girl in the distance.
“That’s her,” he said.
Jordan looked at him straight in the eye and said, “Hold my hand.”
Jordan grabbed him forcefully yet affectionately by the hand and began to walk with him down the hallway in clear view of the girl.
She saw the holding of hands and was immediately confused.
Just to be safe, they held hands for six months after. She ended up not pursuing her interest in the classmate.
You did not necessarily need to be Jordan’s friend to experience his loyalty. You did not even need to necessarily be a human.
Mike Heath recalled a story. It was on a specific cold and early morning in late November of 2014. Jordy was on his way home from working the second shift with Lamoille Valley Ambulance and there was an ever so slight dusting of snow on the road at 1 am.
As he came into Orange Heights he spotted a dog in the road. Despite his best efforts, he hit the dog. It ran off. Jordy did what he normally does and immediately turned around to help the dog and find its owner.
After tracking the bloody paw prints, he found the dog, seriously injured and shaking on its owner’s porch. Jordy knocked, but no one answered. He sighed and scooped up the dog and brought it directly to the vet’s office in Barre. Jordy explained that he hit the dog on his way home from work and wanted to have the vet do what she could to take care of the dog. The vet told Jordy that she could not treat the dog without the owner’s permission. After a few minutes of back and forth with the vet, Jordy tossed his debit card down and said the dog was his. The dog had a broken pelvis, and a few other serious injuries and it is likely he wouldn't have survived without Jordy's help. Or so he thought.
Meanwhile back at the porch... The dog had run out of the house and was in the process of being captured by its owner who witnessed the dog getting hit. She placed the dog on her neighbor’s porch and went to get her car to take it to the vet.
Meanwhile, Jordy had turned around, and kidnapped the dog. The poor woman spent hours searching the woods thinking the dog ran off again. It wasn't until Jordy stopped by that she knew what truly happened.
Jordan was there to celebrate your joys and was there when you had a crappy day and just needed to talk someone. He knew the difference between you wanting someone to listen, or wanting some advice.
He always showed up.
He also never had a bad word to say about anyone; even the people that are universally despised. Jordy would say “Well, I’m sure that his mother loved him.”
There was something different about him. Call it what you like:
a bright aura,
an old soul,
or surrounded by a bit more guardian angels than the normal person.
Whatever it was, he shined when he walked into a room. And even if you were in the other room… you knew he showed up… because you heard is laughter in the background.
Which brings me to his other hat…
Jordy as an Entertainer:
Jordan was friends to preachers and criminals, conservatives and liberals, woodchucks and flatlanders, Groton Methodists and Groton Baptists. His smirk and laugh created a bond.
He would find commonality in everyone and unabashedly knew a bit about anything. No one ever had a boring conversation with Jordy.
Local history? What do you think Jordy?
Politics? Medical science? Jordan has a story.
Solar power? The mandolin? Board games? Ask Jordy.
Astronomy? Quantum physics? Heritage chicken breeds? He knows a bit about those topics too. He wanted to learn everything that was above him and around him.
Conversations with anyone eventually fade to a conclusion, but not Jordy. You had to make a deliberate effort to end them, or they would just continue on.
Contrary to popular belief, Jordan was not a trouble maker. The basic definition of a troublemaker implies that one aims to get into trouble by oneself. This was never Jordan’s intention. No. Jordy was a rabble rouser. His intention was always to get other people in trouble with him.
Tracy has an example of this.
“One of my favorite memories is back when I had my old Nissan Maxima, Jordan, a friend from college, and I went to Burlington one weekend.
On the way home, Jordan got car sick. My maxima had fold down seats that lead to the trunk. He wanted to lay down. So, I opened the trunk, helped him get in, and we flipped down the seats so he could lay with his legs in the trunk, and the rest of him lying on the back seat of the car. Someone passing by on the interstate must have seen us, and thought something suspicious.
About 20 minutes later, a cop pulls up behind my car with their lights on. I pull over, and the cop comes up to the window and says that they received a call with my license plate number, and reported suspicious activity.
Meanwhile, Jordan has tucked himself fully inside the trunk, and flipped the back seat up, and began banging on the trunk yelling "Help! Help!"
I was full on panic mode. Jordan came out of the back seat and was laughing hysterically. The cop did NOT find it amusing, and I was terrified that I was going to jail. Luckily, we were let off with a warning, and I didn't get a ticket.
At the time - not so funny - 15 years later, however, it makes me laugh every time I think about it.”
He was really smart and loved to debate and argue.
One of his colleagues at Riverbend recalled telling Jordy that if pressed, he would argue anything; even cold facts.
“That’s not necessarily true,” Jordy responded.
“See. You are arguing now.”
“Look. I can take something that is utter fact, like ‘2+2=4’ and you can debate that.”
Jordan paused and thought and answered. “Well 2+2 does not always equal 4.”
“How is it ever that 2+2 does not equal 4?”
“Well, sometimes 2+2 equals 3+1.”
He never settled on the first answer, even if the answer was a fact.
I do have a correction to point out to Dad. He declared at the candlelight vigil on Tuesday that no one has ever won a debate with Jordan. Well he learned from the best. Brent Smith raised all of his boys to think critically with wit and research.
He was the only one Jordy could not win a debate with; but to his credit, he is the only one I have ever seen get Dad to a point of negotiation. No one has ever brought Brent Smith from debate phase to negotiation phase other than Jordan.
Dad’s friends saw this too. They would say to Brent after Jordy left a room, “You got a smart boy there.”
Dad would nod in agreement.
Which brings me to his other hat…
Jordy as a learner:
He was an armchair philosopher and a blue-collar scholar.
Most people knew Jordan as an adult, but his desire to learn new things started at a really young age.
Josh Demers recalls a story one time when all four Smith boys and the Demers children went to the St. Johnsbury library. Jordan was six years old at the time. We were all there for a good 30 minutes, (which very well could have felt like 30 years; to have all of us in one location that requested silence.) when it was time to go. We all picked out a few books we were interested in reading, but Jordan was nowhere to be seen in the children’s section.
We looked all over and finally found Jordan in the science and research section of the library. We told him it was time to go. He still wanted to keep looking, but we were all getting a bit louder and the judgmental stares of the quiet patrons was starting to be too much for our mother. Jordan finally found the book he wanted to read. He joined us at the check out counter with his book of choice.
Josh Demers and the librarian were surprised.
“Are you sure that is the book you want to read, Jordan?”
Six year old Jordy nodded. “Yup.”
Josh Demers looked to the rest of the Smith family for validation and support to his question; but we knew Jordan for six years and were not in the least bit surprised in little Jordan’s library book choice. “This book?”
Josh read the title aloud, “How a Nuclear Reactor is Built.”
“Yup. I always wanted to learn about nuclear reactors.”
Jordan did not have hobbies, he had passions; and was eager to share with anyone his new interests. His excitement about the new things he learned made us excited about the new things he learned.
He made us excited about, well… heritage chicken breeds.
His life reflected this. He did everything he wanted to do. When he first became a cook after high school we asked, “Why are you a cook, Jordan?”
“I always wanted to be a cook.” Fair enough.
One day Jordan comes home with goats. “So you are a goat farmer now?”
“Technically it is called a ‘goatherd’ not a ‘goat farmer’, but yes. I always wanted to raise goats.” Fair enough.
One day Jordan decided to take classes on trapping. “So you are trapping now?”
“Yup. I always wanted to become a trapper.” Fair enough.
A couple years later, Jordan started taking electrical classes. “Electrical classes, Jordan?”
“Yup. I always wanted to be an electrician.” Fair enough. He even started his own business with his buddy Paul.
A few years later we checked in on how his electrical business was faring. “Oh, I’m taking EMT classes now.”
“Yup. I always wanted to be an EMT.” Fair enough.
Then a few years later on the summer of 2015, Merry Puffer approached Jordan and told him that there was an electrical teacher vacancy at the River Bend Career and Technical Center. Would he be interested in applying?
Jordan nodded. “I think I’ll apply. I always wanted to be a teacher.”
Think about your favorite moments of Jordy. Those are the gifts he left each one of you. Those are yours to keep forever. Share if you like, but those are yours.
People are asking how should we honor Jordan? His life and his legacy.
Actually, it’s pretty freakin’ simple:
Be passionate about what you love again.
Jordan lived with no regrets. He never said:
‘I wished I did,” or “I should have done that.”
He followed his passions and still got his bills paid. So how do you honor him?
• Dust of your resume,
• Send in that college application,
• That bucket list you wrote up a few years back? Start working on it again.
• Build that garage.
• How about finishing that damn book you started to write.
THAT’S how you honor Jordan.
That’s his legacy… demanding that you be passionate about the things you love again.
Let’s be honest, because some day… we are all going to run out of our own ‘tomorrows.’
Here’s my last story of Jordan.
One day one of his friends was having a heck of a day and just needed to talk with someone. Jordan naturally obliged and showed up to share a drink and conversation.
His friend was discussing his woes and Jordy responded with an optimistic solution. Finally his friend had to ask, “Why are you so damn happy all the time? What is your secret?”
Jordy responded, “I didn’t think it was any secret. Happiness wasn’t something you achieved and kept, but truly mere moments you strive for; and the trick was enjoying yourself in between those moments.”
What are those moments Jordan was referring? When you are in those in-between moments?
It is the early drive into work, listening to the morning weather on the radio.
It is sitting on the couch in the evening, television remote in your hand, contemplating your day during a commercial break.
It is when you are lost in thought at that last swig of beer, staring into the flames of a summer bonfire, while your friends are laughing and talking in the background.
Those are the moments… those thoughts between your thoughts.
That is where Jordy is.
Grinning right back at you.