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Hundreds mourn the death of Daniel Smith

Hudson firefighters lift Dan Smith's casket onto the back of a fire engine for the trip to Willow River Cemetery following his funeral in the Hudson High School Auditorium. In the white shirts, from left, are Don Heldt, Sean O'Brien (above), Tom Forsythe, Tom Barthman, Rich Hjelmgren, Dean Rossing and Mark Thorsen; saluting, from left, Brian Schmidt, John Rivard, Bob Larson, Bob Schmitz and John Simon. See the attached Photo Gallery for more photos. Photo by Randy Hanson

Daniel John Smith was remembered as a man whose actions spoke louder than his words during his funeral Monday morning in the Hudson High School Auditorium.

"Some people talk about doing things and some people do things," said Ron Noden, a lay pastor from Stillwater who delivered the eulogy. "He was a do-things guy - a man of action."

Noden said Smith delivered Christmas gifts to children and the elderly, sponsored a needy family, taught fire prevention classes, served as a hazardous materials safety instructor, and was a pancake breakfast expert, a Scout leader and a worker around the house.

Smith exemplified the fruit of the spirit listed in St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" - Noden said.

An estimated 400 to 500 people attended the funeral of the 46-year-old Hudson Fire Department lieutenant who collapsed at his residence Tuesday night, Jan. 20. Smith died the next day at Regions Hospital in St. Paul after being taken off life-support equipment.

The mourners included around 150 emergency personnel - firefighters, ambulance and rescue workers - from local departments and around the region.

Fire department officials said an autopsy was conducted, but the results haven't been disclosed. According to Don Gorrie, chief investigator for the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office, Smith died of natural causes.

"He had not been ill. That's the whole shocking part of it," Hudson Fire Chief Jim Frye said the day after Smith's death.

The chief added, "There's going to be a big gap that he left behind."

Smith was a 20-year veteran of Hudson's mostly volunteer fire department. He was the department's hazardous materials specialist and Web site manager, in addition to serving as a lieutenant.

Members of the department elected him Firefighter of the Year for 2008.

Smith's full-time job was that of hazardous materials technician for Bay West Inc., headquartered in St. Paul. The company provides waste management and clean-up services.

The son of Ronald and Virginia Smith of Hudson, Smith attended St. Patrick and E.P. Rock elementary schools and graduated from Hudson High School in 1980.

Friends said Smith was devoted to his son Cody, girlfriend Barb Kelley, siblings and other family members.

Emergency personnel entered the high school auditorium to the Talking Heads song "Burning Down the House" playing over the sound system.

The non-traditional prelude music continued with "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum.

"When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna go to the place that's the best; When I lay me down to die, goin' up to the Spirit in the sky," the lyrics go.

Noden, a friend of Smith and Kelley, said Dan would have liked the music.

Also participating in the service were the Rev. Tim Booth of Trinity Lutheran Church of Hudson and the Rev. Steve Kramer of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton, Minn.

Booth read a passage of Scripture from the Book of Revelation that he said was selected by Cody.

Kramer accompanied Eric and Donna Bennett of his congregation on the guitar. The Bennetts sang three songs, including "I Can Only Imagine."

Smith's casket was painted the same fire-engine red that is on the Hudson department's trucks. The top of the casket bore a large seal of the department.

Hudson firefighters wore their dress uniforms with a black band over their badges.

Smith's complete obituary is in section C of the print edition of the Jan. 29 Star-Observer, and will be posted online also beginning Friday.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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