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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
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Lukas Smith remembered as caring, passionate adventurer
Lukas Smith. (Supplied)

Thirteen-year-old Riley Smith had three words for the driver who struck and killed his father Lukas on Sunday night.

“I forgive you.”

“That’s what my dad would have wanted me to do,” he said on Tuesday, during a gathering of friends and family sharing memories about Lukas Smith.

The 41-year-old father of three suffered fatal injuries when hit by a Toyota Corolla on Irvine Road near Scott Street, not far from the home he built for his family 10 years ago. The driver, a 27-year-old man from St. Catharines, remained at the scene.

Niagara Regional Police are investigating. No charges have been laid.

“I was right beside him when it happened,” Riley said. The two had been bike riding together just before 9:30 p.m.

“He was fixing my bike on the side of the road. We looked over and we saw a car come right at us.”

Asked to describe Lukas, all of the two dozen or so people gathered at the family’s home agreed “passionate” was a fitting word.

“He was passionate about everything in life,” said Trish Smith, his wife of 18 years. “He loved hobbies, he loved adventure. He was so into dirt biking. The boys and him ride all the time.”

“Anything on the water,” added their 15-year-old son Bryden.

“He loved being on the water. There was something about it that just intrigued him, and it made him come alive,” Trish said.

Among a long list of hobbies, Smith also played drums, bass and acoustic guitar. He had a woodworking studio and enjoyed people. For many years he owned a house framing business and had recently obtained his real estate licence.

He was also deeply devout in his faith, all agreed. And the most important thing to him was family, Trish said.

“We were number one, and we knew that, and he made sure of that.”

“He liked his dog too,” said Peter Thiessen, Lukas’ father-in-law.

Bryden said Lukas and his dog Emerson were “inseparable.”

He also worked hard at his job and had been recently planning to settle down a bit more.

When it came to work, “he worked real hard. I don’t know anyone that’s worked harder to provide for us and to give us this life,” Trish said. 

His employees weren’t employees. They were his friends and are the ones that have come back in the last few days, and have emailed, saying, ‘He wasn’t a boss, he was a mentor.’” 

When he built cottages for clients up north, “he would take his whole crew up there, his forklift and everything, and they’d put a diving board off the forklift and they dove into the water,” said Smith’s father Andrew.

Bryden said a Facebook note from his father’s friend Dave Neufeld really resonated with him. It said, “His drive was second to none.”

Sitting on their beautiful property with a pool, stone patio, work barn, Trish said when they found the place, it was just a field. Lukas said, "You just wait. I can envision it.”

Others described him as caring, outgoing, gracious, forgiving.

“Funny,” added his 10-year-old daughter Miaya.

But among all the descriptions, the one that seemed to tell the tale was “adventurous.”

Smith was always coming up with new adventures. He had plans to cross Lake Ontario in his jointly owned catamaran with friend Wes Wiens, followed by his father in the family motor boat to keep an eye on things.

“He wanted to (row) across the Atlantic next,” Trish said. His goal was to do the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Challenge, from the Canary Islands to Antigua with Wiens and Doug Hiebert.

He also wanted to ride in the Corduroy Enduro this year — an arduous, two-day dirt bike race in September.

Though always adventurous, “he was calculated and didn’t take unnecessary chances, though he pushed the limits. He loved the obstacles,” said his father Andrew.

“He was committed to whatever he set his mind on, and he mastered it, but he was never, never cocky — the most humble guy you’d ever meet,” said Wiens. 

“Some people just come up with ideas and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah that’d be great,’ but then he’d come back a few days later and go, ‘I investigated, we can do it like this.’ ” 

And despite some wild ideas, he usually made them a reality.

“If he couldn’t beat it the first time, he’d go back the second time and beat it,” Bryden said.

He wasn’t really a planner, more like the “ideas man,” says Wiens and everyone agreed, laughing.

“Details were a little rough,” Trish joked.

Hiebert said they were trying to convince him to write a book about all his adventures and mishaps.

Trish recalled one comical incident, when the family was driving in Florida and their rental vehicle got a flat. They phoned the rental company and were told there was a flat tire kit in the car that needed to be plugged into the cigarette lighter. 

“So Lukas is like OK, gets the thing out, sits in the car with me, plugs it in, and white goopy stuff (went) everywhere. He had his glasses on so it didn’t get in his eyes. But his face, his hair, the whole roof of the car, the backseat is just this white gunk, like I mean, like you can’t get it off you. My kids are in the backseat, crying and screaming and the woman’s still on the phone going, ‘Is everything OK?’ We had to use the kids clothes that they didn’t like as much to try to clean up the mess.”

They ended up driving down the interstate with white gunk all over the windshield, not to mention the ceiling and everywhere else.

Riley told another story of a time they were at the cottage and took their new catamaran boat out, but forgot to put the plugs in the pontoons. Everyone immediately burst out laughing at the tale.

“We were sinking halfway at the front, and we were crashing in the waves going under and up. It’s a miracle that we didn’t sink,” Riley said.

“We got to the other side of the lake and we realized we couldn’t turn. Then we realized, oh shoot, we forgot to put the drain plugs in, and he was taking land bearings, all the way back, just in case something were to happen,” Bryden added.

“But he thought it was a great adventure,” Trish said. “It always worked out for him. It always would. He’s like, ‘What are you talkin’ about, it was fine. Totally fine, I made it back,’” she said.

“It’s amazing I’m not a full grey-haired mom.”

Everyone had a Lukas story – whether it was about him travelling to Africa to meet a friend during a mission trip, others about fun mishaps, or times he pulled daring adventures at the cottage.

“He soaked up life, he squeezed it, and he wrung it out. And then he did it again,” said Hiebert.

Smith’s father Andrew said he can’t believe the number of people coming to support the family, both friends, co-workers and people from his church.

“It’s like he set us up with this amazing community to carry us through now,” Trish said, fighting back tears.

“He doesn’t have a huge family. I don’t have a huge family but he made his friends.”

Lukas grew up in Vineland and moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake 17 years ago. He was a member of Cornerstone Community Church in Virgil, where his longtime friend Matthew Unruh is a pastor.

Reached on the phone earlier Tuesday, Unruh echoed the same sentiments as the rest of Smith’s friends and family — Lukas was a genuinely great person.

Friends and family all said he loved to share his faith with people, even complete strangers.

“He was unashamed about it,” said Wiens.

Along with his faith, he welcomed strangers with open arms. His father said he would often invite seasonal workers to barbecues or Thanksgiving dinner, and Trish recalled once arriving home to find him playing music with a total stranger.

“I had recently come home with a newborn baby, came downstairs from a nap and there’s a strange guy sitting in my living room playing guitar. It was a guy he saw walking down the street with a guitar,” she said.

“This kid was in our house playing guitar and he was looking for work around here. He just came from Europe or something and was trying to find a farm job, so then Lukas calls all his farmer friends trying to find him a job.”

Riley wanted to make sure he got it out there that his dad was “a better dirt biker than my brother,” which drew another belly laugh from the group.

“You have to add this to the newspaper, 'cause his big goal in dirt biking was to beat my brother. And he finished off strong. And he finished off being faster than him.”

“I would have had him by the end of the summer,” Bryden joked back.

Wiens clarified that Smith knew his son was going to outpace him and it was “one of the proud moments of his life.”

Thinking of the memories they will have, the group said he left a “blueprint” for them to follow.

“Be as caring and as accepting to other people as Lukas was. To be giving, adventurous,” said his mother-in-law Arlene Thiessen. 

“My hope is that his legacy will live on through all of us here. That we’ll be able to continue what he started,” Bryden said.

“We have a big job ahead of us,” said Trish.