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Scott A. Smith
April 13, 1971-Aug 19, 2021
Scott A Smith obit pic
Scott A. Smith, a Manteca native who realized his dream of seeing the world as a journalist, died August 19, at Stanford Hospital following a six-month battle with brain cancer. Scott, who was 50, leaves his family members, friends and extended journalism family with rich memories of a brilliant, kind and funny son, brother, uncle, friend and colleague.
   Scott was born April 13, 1971, the son of G. Scott and Lorene Smith of Manteca, joining his two sisters to complete the family. Long before he became an AP correspondent based in Caracas, Venezuela, he was a country boy, raising and showing, sheep, steers and turkeys through Calla 4-H. As a tight-knit family, they enjoyed camping, skiing and showing Arabian horses where he won several championships. He also loved music and played the trumpet and flute.
   Scott graduated from East Union High School in Manteca, where he was very active in the jazz, concert and marching bands and was the student representative to the school board his senior year. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at California State University, Chico. From there, he entered the Peace Corps, teaching conversational English to college students in Uzbekistan. On his LinkedIn page, Scott provided a one-word description of the experience: “Survived.”
   After completing his Peace Corps assignment, and before returning to the United States, Scott spent 18 months running an Uzbekistan non-profit that fought for freedom of the press. He then returned to Northern California, working briefly for the Turlock Journal and the Tri-Valley Herald before taking a job as The Record’s crime reporter in 2003.
   Keith Reid, a colleague of Scott’s when both worked at The Record newspaper, in Stockton, admired his friend’s skills, ethics and fearlessness. “He’d just cruise in every day with his lunchbox and produce blockbuster headlines again and again,” Keith said. “We lost a great one.”
   Scott kept a basketball at his desk in The Record’s newsroom, calling it his “thinking ball.” And there was plenty for Scott to think about during his 10 years at The Record. His reporting on Wesley Shermantine led the convicted serial killer to reveal to Scott the burial places of five of his victims. He also wrote about violence in California Youth Authority facilities, about inmates growing old in prison, and about Stockton’s descent into bankruptcy. Scott won numerous awards for his news coverage while at The Record.
   San Joaquin County Supervisor Kathy Miller, who served on the City Council during Stockton’s financial crisis, described Scott as “one of the best journalists I’ve been privileged to know and work with. … Fair, balanced, tenacious, articulate … everything we hope for from reporters.”
   During his time covering the court system, Scott also wrote of a doctor accused of stealing a Rolex watch off the wrist of a deceased patient, and of a judge who would fall asleep during testimony.
   Scott moved on to the AP in 2014 as a correspondent in Fresno where he covered the Central Valley and Yosemite National Park. During his time in Fresno, he played trumpet in a conscious hip-hop band and a soul, funk and R&B band. He was also active in a cycling club where he made many friends.   His Venezuela assignment began in 2017. In its obituary of Scott, the AP reported:
“Smith arrived in Caracas in 2017 amid a wave of deadly anti-government unrest spurred in part by growing pressure from the Trump administration, which was seeking to force President Nicolás Maduro from power.  Smith’s easygoing demeanor, boundless curiosity and immense pride at being a foreign correspondent won him the trust and respect of government supporters and opponents alike.  Smith looked through the polarizing rhetoric of Venezuela’s political crisis and gave voice to all he encountered: oil-covered fishermen eking out a hellacious existence in a polluted lake, street gangsters hurt by the rising price of bullets or the families of victims of a fire at an overcrowded prison.”
   One of Scott’s proudest moments came in early 2020, when he shared video coverage on Facebook of him asking Maduro a question, in Spanish, during a presidential news conference. After Scott asked his question, there was a brief exchange between him and Maduro. Asked by a Facebook friend what Maduro had said, Scott wrote, “It's pretty funny, actually. He asks where I'm from. I say, California. He asks his vice president, Delcy, have you been to California. She says she's been plenty.”
“He used to joke that a small-town kid who showed steers at the county fair wasn’t supposed to be a foreign correspondent writing the first draft of history,” Kelly Scott, one of Scott’s two older sisters, told his final employer, the Associated Press. “He never took himself too seriously.”  Some of Scott’s other talents and accomplishments include teaching writing classes at San Joaquin Delta College, being conversant in four languages (English, Spanish, Russian and Uzbek), and dabbling in photography, drawing, painting and poetry.
After Scott received his diagnosis six months ago, the AP reported that he was evacuated from Caracas “in a rare show of cooperation between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments amid the coronavirus pandemic and a strict American ban on all flights to the country in place since 2019.”
   Scott will be missed by his loving parents, G. Scott and Lorene Smith of Manteca, sisters, Kelly Scott (Steve Powers) of Copperopolis, Kristy Bean (Jeff) of Manteca, and their children, Kyle Bean (Ashley), Brandon and Katelin.
   P.L. Fry & Son Funeral Home is honored to serve the Smith family.  Celebration of life will take place August 31, at P.L. Fry & Son Funeral Home, 290 N. Union Road, Manteca. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m., followed by a service at 11.   A graveside service will follow at Park View Cemetery, 3661 French Camp Road, Manteca.

Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

Tuesday, August 24, 2021