Owen C. Smith, retired General Counsel of Philip Morris International, passed away at first light on February 5, 2017 at his home in Big Pine Key, FL, surrounded by his wife and three children. After battling and beating a rare form of cancer for over five years, he died of an equally rare neurological disorder, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. He was 75.
After attending the Weston School as a child, Owen was Class Poet of The Lawrenceville School (’59) and graduated from Princeton University (AB ’63) and The University of Pennsylvania Law School (JD ’66). Owen also studied law at the Hague Academy of International Law (’65), the University of Missouri Law School (LLM ’70), Harvard Law School (PIL ’77), and the New York University School of Law (LLM ‘81).
Owen served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam as Captain in the 23rd Medical Battalion, for which he received two Bronze Stars, Combat and Expert Field Medical Badges, and numerous other decorations. His military service continued throughout his life as a Captain in the Army Reserve, Judge Advocate for the New York Commandery of the Military Order of Foreign Wars, and, most recently, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, District 7.
During his long career at Philip Morris International, Owen helped establish its Lausanne, Switzerland office, as the Chief Legal Officer & Director of Philip Morris Europe, Middle East and Africa. While living in Lausanne, where two of his children were born, Owen was the Chairman of the Commonwealth-American School and a member of the Governing Board of the Scottish Church. After returning to the United States, Owen lived in New Canaan, CT for nearly 30 years, where he was active in the community, singing in the choir at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, serving as Commissioner of the House League at the New Canaan Winter Club where his children played hockey, and as a member of the Field Club and Country Club of New Canaan. He also established the New Canaan Yacht Club, which served as gathering of like-minded sailors for food and good cheer during the winter months.
Owen became a passionate sailor at a young age, sailing at Saugatuck Yacht Club. Later, as a member of American Yacht Club, he did frostbite racing during the winter in his dinghy Skate. He was also a member of the Cruising Club of America, the New York Yacht Club, and a past Commodore of the Edgartown Yacht Club, where he raced his Herreshoff 12 ½ Bonnes Mares, his Sabre 38 Upbeat, his J42 of the same name, and his J28 Resurgo with great distinction. He cruised in the Virgin Islands, Grenadines and Hebrides, completed a Trans-Atlantic passage to Kinsale, Ireland, and competed in six Newport to Bermuda Races, among other offshore adventures. Owen was a member of the Bermuda Race Role of Honor Selection Committee, the Chappaquiddick Beach Club, Cloister Inn at Princeton (President), La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Edgartown Reading Room (Vexillary), Martha’s Vineyard Rod & Gun Club, The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (Officer), and the University Club of New York.
Owen’s tenacious devotion to duty, extraordinary personal drive, intelligence and indomitable spirit were felt by all who encountered him. As much as he gave to others, Owen gave most to his family. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Christine M. Smith, of Big Pine Key, FL; his three children, Philip C. Smith II, of Winterport, ME, Andrew C. von S. Smith, of New Canaan, CT, and Sarah S. Betz, of Darien, CT; his two brothers, Lawther O. Smith, of Doylestown, PA, and Richard C. Smith, of Pinellas Park, FL; and seven grandchildren, Charles and Hazel (Philip), Adeline and Andrew Jr. (Andrew), and Oliver, Margaret and Louisa (Sarah).
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 11 at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, CT at 11:00 a.m., followed by a reception at the Country Club of New Canaan. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made in Owen’s honor to The Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of the Florida Keys, Inc. www.VNAHospiceKeys.org