By Marsha Strong-Smith
Noel Aubrey Smith, former editor of Times Publishing Group, Inc., passed away on June 14, 2019, at the age of 82.
Noel is survived by his wife, Marsha Strong-Smith, his 4 children from a previous marriage, and three step children: Tori Strong, who married Larry Meredith; Randy Strong, who married Anita; and Ron Strong. Noel also became a proud grandparent for Randy and Anita Strong’s three children: Joshua, Alyssa and Alanna; plus being great grandparents to Joshua and Jasmine Strong’s two children: Theron and Avary.
Noel is also survived by his sister, Linda Harshburger, and his brother, Davis Almondsmith.
Noel was born on 1937 in Minneapolis, Minn. to Mr. and Mrs. George and Vivian Smith
In 1950 when Noel was 13 years old, his family and siblings moved to San Diego, where both his father and mother worked at Ryan Aeronautical Co. until they retired. He graduated from Grossmont High School in 1954 and is an alumnus of San Diego State College, now known as San Diego State University.
Because of the GI Bill, a number of his college fraternity (Tau Kappa Epsilon) brothers were former servicemen. One of them had served in Germany with the Army Security Agency. This sounded like a great adventure, so Noel enlisted into the US Army in 1958.
Noel completed Army basic training at Ft. Ord, Upon completion he attended the Army Language School, which is located at the Presidio of Monterey, Ca. There he completed six months of German language instruction, attaining the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code 98G, Voice Intercept Operator.
In 1958 with a German Language specialty, he then was transferred to Frankfurt, West Germany, which was the location of the Army Security Agency (ASA) European Command. He was then transferred to West Berlin, Germany, which was located 110 miles behind the enemy lines, inside East Germany.
In Berlin, he was assigned to the 280th ASA Company, where he served as a German linguist Occupational Specialty code 98G, Voice Intercept Operator. The unit was later renamed the 78th SOU (Special Operations Unit), interpreting conversations from those behind the Berlin wall. The ASA operations during this period were located at the Berlin Tempelhof Airport. On August 13, 1961, when the Famous Berlin Wall was built, which was a large alert operation.
Noel has kept in touch with several of his fellow Berlin ASA Army workers all these years, reminiscing life stories about Berlin and his life and jobs thereafter.
Noel served for four years and was honorably discharged with the rank of “Specialist” from the Army Security Agency in 1962 as a Cold War Veteran. The following awards were issued to Noel as a result of his meritorious military service. West Berlin was an occupied territory after World War II, and those that served there were issued:
- The Army of Occupation Medal
- Good Conduct Medal
- Expert Army Marksman Qualification Badge
- Cold War Service Medal (issued 2002)
- Membership from the Armed Forces Communications Electronics, Classified (Secret) Division called The Association of “Old Crows.”
In 1962, Noel left the Army, returned to San Diego and went back to school, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering while working full time for General Dynamics.
From 1962 to 1978, Noel was the Manager of European Field Support and Training for DatagraphiX, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, including being stationed in Germany and England from 1974 to 1976.
He held several engineering and manufacturing positions including electronic design, reliability, test and process engineering. During this time he also went back to school at National University and graduated in 1968 with a B.S. in Electronic Engineering from San Diego College of Engineering.
In 1978, after earning his Masters, Business Administration at National University, Noel became a Senior Staff Engineer for Cubic Western Data. The company manufactured fare collection equipment for both bus and rail transit systems. His responsibilities included conceptual development and marketing.
This lead to Noel’s position as International Marketing Manager for Science Applications Technology Company (SAIT) of San Diego, a division of S.A.I. International. He started as a management consultant to the CEO, and to select and install an MIS system. Next, he was given responsibility for marketing administration and proposal production for the marketing division. He was also assigned responsibility of Manager of International Marketing, the first for this division.
In 1985, Noel was awarded a grant he wrote for the Santa Cruz Metro and moved to Santa Cruz. The duration of the grant was two years. During this time he met Marsha Strong, who worked for Santa Cruz Bible Church.
Once his work was done at the Metro, he traveled across the United States and Europe, looking at a variety of Automated Fare Collection systems. During Noel and Marsha’s long-distance conversations and courtship, he came to understand that he could rely on the Lord for large and small decisions.
Noel returned to Santa Cruz and was employed by Alcatel, France, for several years as a local manager. His goal was to prove the concept of the Automated Fare Collection System could work in the Bay Area, working with BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit Bus District.
This pilot system was called “Trans Link” and was the first fare and transportation system implemented in the United States. After Noel left, the system was designed, built and implemented and went through a period of testing. The system and testing proved viable, but was placed on hold for several years, due to funding. Years later, this approach was redesigned and implemented to allow riders to use a one common fare card on busses, trains and ferries operated by more than two dozen systems in the Bay Area. The ridership fare was then distributed to the appropriate agencies.
Before Noel had returned to Santa Cruz, Marsha and Rich Harvey created The Christian Resource Center in Santa Cruz. They published an informative newsletter and offered the use of their office space, graphic services, and equipment to several non-profit organizations such as “The Crisis Pregnancy Center,” now known as the “Pregnancy Resource Center” and many others.
When Noel returned to Santa Cruz while working with “Trans Link,” he was immediately recruited as a volunteer by Marsha to write articles for their newsletter. How could Noel pass up a great deal like that?
Noel said he believed that Marsha married him in 1988 at Santa Cruz Bible Church because she was able to get a good writer/editor, tech support for the first Macintosh computer she used, and a handyman who could fix anything with duct tape, paper clips, and WD 40. How could Marsha pass up a great deal like that?
When Rich moved on, Noel and Marsha continued to operate the Christian Resource Center for eight years, changing the monthly newsletter into a 20-page publication called “The Forum.” The intent was to promote local organizations, such as “Second Harvest Food Bank,” and national organizations, such as “Focus on the Family.” They met with other organizations once a month at the State Capitol in Sacramento.
“The Forum” also produced two live call-in talk shows: One on KSCO and the other on KFER. Rene Schlaepfer, Senior Pastor at Twin Lakes Church, was one of their first guests on KSCO. Articles of interest were published from like-minded people, such as Condoleezza Rice, who served as United States Secretary of State under George W. Bush; Charles Colson, Watergate felon who became an evangelical Christian and established “Prison Fellowship Ministry;” along with many others.
During their marriage, Noel and Marsha were able to spend quality time with the Strong family, who gave them days, weeks and months of laughter, fun, and memorable experiences.
After years of publishing the “The Forum,” Noel decided to return to the field of engineering that he had been familiar with years ago, but after two years of commuting from Santa Cruz to Flextronics in Silicon Valley, he found this work to be very unsatisfying.
Noel loved to travel and his family roots were in Santa Cruz. To satisfy both worlds, he learned how to drive an 18-wheeler and worked for Werner Enterprises, a national trucking company, that gave him the opportunity to travel all 48 continental states. Their trucks were one of the first that had the ability to text using a small computer as standard equipment.
Noel always loved to write, and when he was home from the road, was able to assist Marsha in editing her four UnFROGetable series of picture books that empower children to develop positive behaviors.
After 3-1/2 years of driving a truck Noel returned to Santa Cruz for good. He worked part-time at a variety of jobs before being hired as a full-time editor by Patrice Edwards, Publisher of the Times.
For 14 years Noel was editor for the Scotts Valley Times, Capitola Soquel Times, and Aptos Times newspapers and Times Publishing Group, Inc magazines. His job also occasionally included reporter, writer, photographer, tech support for the office computers, BBQ chief, and any other job that had to be done.
Noel and Marsha were regular participants and familiar faces at the Capitola Art & Wine Festival for many years. One could always see Noel distributing the latest Times Publication while Marsha Face Painted both adults and little ones and/or sold her unFROGetable series of picture books (www.unfrogetables.com).
Noel promoted the educational and arts community, along with a variety of non-profit groups and organizations. He was the first person to start promoting organizations such as Shane’s Inspiration, which helps kids with disabilities that are often excluded from play. Their goal is to create playgrounds and educational programs where kids of all abilities can play together. Shane’s Inspiration is only one of many youth organizations Noel promoted.
As editor, Noel received many community and state awards for his work. Some examples include:
- 2018 received “The CSBA Golden Quill Award,” a Certificate of Excellence in Journalism from the California School Board Association in recognition of fair, insightful and accurate reporting on public school news.
- 2018 from “The Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County the Media Supporter Award” for his years of editorials and news articles highlighting Second Harvest Food Bank, and for helping to raise awareness of food insecurity in Santa Cruz County.
- 2011 Received Recognition from: The Senate, Calif. State Legislation, Santa Cruz Co. Board of Supervisors
- 2011 A certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding service to the community
Noel’s keen memory for details made him a successful Army translator, great writer, and editor. Noel’s ability to listen more than he spoke made him a loving husband, step-dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather: which he realized were the most important jobs of all.
The people at TPG, Inc., Twin Lakes Church where Noel and Marsha attended, plus the relationships he established along the Central Coast community became an extended family that he cherished.
Noel said that taking a leap of faith in love, marriage, career, and business, plus sharing it with others, has made life all worthwhile.
A Celebration of Noel’s life will be held at Twin Lakes Church on Oct. 20, 2019 at 2 p.m., followed by a reception.
Noel’s Favorite Scriptures
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to llie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with Me; they rod and they staff they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runeth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
John 15:13 (KJV)
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.