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May 25, 2023

Walter Smith, founder of Active Construction, dies

Photo from ACI
Walt Smith, right, attended ACI’s holiday party in December at the LeMay car museum in Tacoma.

Walter Smith, founder of Active Construction in Gig Harbor, died May 2 at the age of 86, according to an obituary in The News Tribune.

Smith was born Oct. 21, 1936, in Seattle to Herbert and Ruth Smith. He attended elementary and middle schools in Arizona and California before returning to the Seattle area and enrolling at Lincoln High School. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

In 1962, Smith started Active Construction Inc. in Gig Harbor with one employee, a used pickup truck and a small bulldozer. He built up the civil construction company over the years and sold it in 2005. Today, ACI has average annual revenues between $90 million and $120 million, and employs 200-300 staff, according to ACI's website.

A recent Facebook post by ACI said Smith was always charismatic, smiling and eager to tell a story.

“I feel lucky to have many great memories of the man. I've known him since birth, my dad started working for him in 1968 until he retired in 2001 and gave him me as a replacement,” said Nick Stencil in a comment to ACI's Facebook post.

The obituary said Smith also was a developer, using his expertise in site construction to develop many subdivisions in the Gig Harbor area.

Smith was also active in the community, holding leadership roles at several organizations including: director and president of the Artondale Golf and Country Club; board member and three-term president of the Peninsula Helmsmen; board member, president and director of the Key Peninsula Parks and Recreation District; board member and president of the Peninsula School District; board member of Peninsula Light Co.; board member and president of the Associated General Contractors Tacoma Chapter (now an AGC of Washington district office); national director of AGC of America; vice president of Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce; board member of the Association of Washington Business; board member of Harbor History Museum; and president of the Gig Harbor Historical Society.

Another Facebook commenter, Donald Tjossem, pointed out it's often forgotten that Smith was a founding director of Gig Harbor National Bank, which later became branches of Puget Sound National Bank and then KeyBank.

Smith was awarded 2002 Businessperson of the Year by the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and received the Community Service Award from the Rotary Club of Tacoma. The obituary said he also was instrumental in securing waterfront property and building Harbor History Museum in downtown Gig Harbor.

Smith is survived by his wife Janice, daughter Sandy, son Kurt, stepdaughter Tracy Fisher, stepson Buzz Richards and several grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 3 p.m. June 25 at Key Peninsula Civic Center, 17010 S. Vaughn Road N.W. in Vaughn, Pierce County. Causal/tailgate attire is encouraged, according to the obituary.

Memorial contributions can be made to Peninsula Hawks scholarship fund, Harbor History Museum, or Network Tacoma.

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