Some 19 years ago, my wife and I went to the New York State Fair in Syracuse, and as soon-to-be newlyweds at that time, we stopped at a vendor because we kind of thought it would be kind of neat to get his and hers little dolls, a bride and groom that said “Sammy Loves Amber” and “Amber Loves Sammy,” and get them embroidered. It was for $10 bucks, a pretty good price. Somehow during that time, we got into a conversation with the gentleman behind the counter, and we got on the topic of amusements, and she said that her father was involved in the business. As he wrote up the order form, he asked for her name, and she said “Amber Smith.” Without missing a beat he look at her and said, “You’re not Cleveland Smith’s daughter are you?”
I was totally amazed. He went on to explain how Cleveland helped him get his start in the business, how he encouraged him, and mentored him along. It was right then that I began to understand how well thought of an influential he was in the industry. (By the way, there was no charge for these.)
As mentioned, that was up in New York state, and that makes me a Yankee. It took several visits down south before I think I was accepted fully, but I’ll tell you, if Cleveland had any question about his daughter’s choice for a spouse, I never felt it. He was always welcoming and hospitable, and he made me feel as part of the family right from the start.
Now I come from an Italian family, so we’re usually not at a loss for words or how loud we tend to say them, but with Cleveland because of his low-key , soft-spoken and easy-going approach to things, it was often difficult for me to tell if he was ever mad. I just could never tell. But it is a trait that I hope that my kids will eventually perfect because they had a wonderful role model to have as a grandfather.
Cleve had double duty in this regard to our children. My Dad never met his grandkids. But I know that he and Cleveland would have gotten along splendidly. Every child should have the opportunity to know their grandparents, so I’m very thankful that they will have great memories of Grandpa Cleveland.
Of course, if you’re a Grandpa, you were a Dad first, and what a remarkable Dad he was. To me, that was reflected in the way that Amber would greet him every time the phone rang, in a voice that I always enjoyed hearing. “Hi Daddy!” she would say, always in a beautiful tone that was reserved just for him. It was a greeting of warmth and gratitude and of a deep love of a daughter for her father.