I was saddened to learn of Gene Smith’s passing and was glad to find this site where his many friends and the many whose lives he touched can share our memories of this remarkable person.
I knew Gene when he came to Indonesia to head the Library of Congress office there in the 1980s. I was a graduate student and doing my part in a project to microfilm Javanese manuscripts and printed materials in Central Java. Gene was a great supporter of my work and my colleagues then. He opened his house in Jakarta to me and there I met some of the many guests from around the world that he inevitably hosted. He also developed a circle of close Indonesian friends and scholars, who I am sure will also be much saddened by the news of his passing. He had an intellectual curiosity in everything and was an inveterate collector of books and knowledge, and by the end of his time in Indonesia he had his own huge personal collection of materials, which he later donated to collections in Indonesia, I believe. He was an incredibly generous person and a consummate host, a dear, kind, gentle person, with a terrific sense of humor, an infectious roar of a laugh, a great zest for the pleasures of life and a sympathy and compassion for those in need. I last saw him in New York in his offices two or three years ago, and he took me out for a sumptuous lunch, and it was so wonderful to talk over those times again and to see him in his element among his beloved texts and with readers and scholars coming and going. It is very sad to realize that was our last meeting. He led an extraordinarily full life. He was a true friend to so many, he leaves an unfillable gap. I loved him and will miss him. My sincere condolences to his family and to his colleagues in New York.