Photos from the bench dedication ceremony at Six Flags Over Georgia

June 18, 2012

I put a bunch of photos from the event into a slideshow. Click here if you’d like to look at them.



April 3, 1941 to Sept. 4, 2011, a life well lived

September 4, 2011

Dallas Morning News features my Dad in news obituary

September 4, 2011

I always thought my Dad was special. But I knew that, as his daughter, I was liable to be somewhat biased. Well, it turns out my Dad WAS pretty special. The Dallas Morning News decided to write a news obituary about his passing. Obit writer Joe Simnacher interviewed me Wednesday morning, and late Wednesday night his article went live on It contains a mistake. The service takes place Sept. 17 (not the 10th) at Ted Dickey West Funeral Home, Dallas.

Read the Dallas Morning News article.

In memory of W. Cleveland Smith, Jr.

September 4, 2011

W. Cleveland Smith, Jr., circa 1980, at State Fair of Texas.

Warner Cleveland Smith, Jr., 70 died peacefully holding hands with his wife, Sherry Shaw Smith in the early morning hours of Sept. 4, 2011. Although fading into the grip of dementia the last three years, he lived a full and happy life.

Cleveland ran amusement parks for a living and was instrumental in the development of Six Flags over Texas. Cleve started with Six Flags Over Texas the first day it opened in 1961 as a ride operator, then ride supervisor.

In 1964 he became the New York World’s Fair General Manager for Rides. During 1966 to 1969 Cleveland was the General Manager and then promoted to Operations Manager for Six Flags Over Georgia.

In 1969 Cleveland was promoted to Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of Six Flags Inc. In 1971 W. Cleveland Smith & Associates was formed which later became Fun Corporation of America. Cleveland also was the Vice President and member of the Board of Directors with Wynne Enterprises, Inc., owned by Angus G. Wynne Jr., the founder of Six Flags, from 1972 to 1982. Over the decades, one of his best friends and mentors was Luther D. Clark.

Cleveland also held management roles at Lion Country Safari and Old Chicago.

In 1982 Cleveland became the General Manager for the Entertainment Area at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tenn. From 1984 to 1989, he was the President of the State Fair of Texas Midway games, novelties and concessions.

As Vice President of Overseas Development for Wet ‘n Wild, Cleveland worked closely with George Millay, the founder of Sea World and Wet’n Wild.

He traveled extensively for work and pleasure, visiting Brazil, Japan, Alaska, Peru, Ecuador & Australia.

In his earlier years, Cleve worked on oil rigs, and as an assistant purchasing agent for Neiman-Marcus wherein he was bonded to drive to homes to deliver clothes, jewelry, shoes for the buyer’s discretion.

Cleve was born in Jacksboro in 1941 because his father, Warner Cleveland Smith insisted on seeing the birth and no hospital in Dallas at that time would allow that. His mother Emma Jean (Powell) Smith was agreeable to that game plan. Growing up in Dallas, Cleveland finished high school in Dallas and studied business administration at the University of Texas Arlington.

He is survived by:

his wife, Sherry Shaw Smith of Plano, Texas;

daughter, April Amber Suriani of Manlius, NY, son-in-law Sammy Suriani, grandsons Nicholas Cleveland and Benjamin Texas and granddaughter Sabrina Shawn;

son,  Trey (Warner Cleveland Smith, III) Smith of Charlotte, NC; daughter-in-law Michelle Smith, grandson Hunter Cleveland and granddaughters Emily Xiangyi, Katherine Mei and Caroline Michelle;

sister, Beverly Hendrickson of Terrell; and several nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Also family to Cleveland were his canine children, Cuervo who died last year, and Tag.

A Celebration of Life Memorial Service honoring Cleveland will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at Ted Dickey West Funeral Home. On Sept. 18 we will honor Cleveland’s caregivers at Silverado Senior Living of Plano.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Warner Cleveland Smith, Jr. Memorial Bench Fund, through Legacy Texas Bank Plano, 1573 Alma Dr. Plano, Texas 75075. Memorial benches are being created to place near the carousels in the amusement parks that were dear to Cleveland and those innovators of the amusement industry with whom he worked.

About the service at Ted Dickey West Funeral Home.

Watch video scrapbook of Cleveland’s life.

More of us fear Alzheimer’s disease

February 24, 2011

A growing number of Americans say they fear Alzheimer’s disease. Probably because a growing number of Americans have a family member or friend who is affected by the disease.

I’m referring to a MetLife Foundation survey that came out today.

What’s interesting to me is that the leading cause of death in America is heart disease, followed by cancer. Alzheimer’s disease is actually the sixth leading cause of death, after stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents. But it’s cancer that is the most feared disease, followed by Alzheimer’s disease.

For the survey, respondents were asked which of five major diseases they were most afraid. Forty-one percent said cancer. Thirty-one percent said Alzheimer’s. That is an increase from 20 percent who named Alzheimer’s as the disease they were most afraid of, in a similar survey in 2006.

Additionally, the survey found that 23 percent of adults are extremely or very concerned that they may someday have to provide care for a loved on with Alzheimer’s.

What I found troubling was how few of us have taken steps to prepare for Alzheimer’s and dementia, which is projected to increase substantially in the years to come. The survey says only 18 percent of adults say they have made plans for the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s. Fewer than half of adults claim to have talked to their families about the disease. Only 21 percent of adults say they have made any financial arrangements for the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s.

Of course I understand – and share – the fear of this disease. I will even admit that I have not taken actual steps, had real conversations about the potential personal impact of this disease. But I will also make the point that learning about dementia, making some preparations and asking ourselves “what if…” can make the whole situation less scary.

Finally — attention focuses on how money woes can signal dementia

October 31, 2010

A story on page one of today’s New York Times explains that money woes can be an early clue to Alzheimer’s. It tells the stories of individuals who stopped paying bills, lost track of bank accounts and lost their money in what turned out to be the early stages of dementia. It also explains how legal, financial and psychological leaders are grappling with how to determine a person’s decision making capacity.

Looking back, I see that my Dad’s demise likely started with making poor financial decisions. He had been a keen business professional in the amusement industry when suddenly he began promoting a multi-level marketing company. I had never questioned my Dad’s judgment before; instead, I questioned my own skepticism. And when things didn’t pan out for him, I found flaws in the company, the market, the economy. Dad wasn’t in his right mind then. We didn’t know it, and he didn’t know it — but now I wonder if, somehow, that multi-level marketing company did…

As Dad degenerated,  it turns out, he kept making donations to some of his favorite charities. Of course, as soon as he wrote one check, he would forget, and when the next request for money came, he’d write another. Even after his wife notified the charities about Dad’s condition, the groups continued to keep him on their mailing lists. I don’t want to believe they preyed upon him, but that’s what it looks like. Think about it: If you are in charge of fundraising, and you are unscrupulous, elderly people who are becoming forgetful can be goldmines.

So, I’m glad that the Alzheimer’s Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the New York Times says, met recently “to formulate guidelines on how to deal with clients who have trouble remembering and reasoning, a problem that is not new but is increasing as the population ages.” It’s a dementia issue that has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Read The New York Times story, by Gina Kolata.

‘Shriver Report’ outlines much Alzheimer’s work to be done

October 18, 2010

It was June 12, 2003 when Sargent Shriver typed a letter to his friends, telling of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. “I look forward to being in touch with as many of you as possible. If names are slow to come to me, please forgive me. But if at any moment, I seem content with things as they are, don’t leave the room,” he wrote. “Remind me of the great times we’ve had and the great work waiting to be done.”

Plenty of work remains to be done, and his daughter, Maria Shriver is leading the charge.

The journalist, author and First Lady of California says she grieves every time she visits her father, and she says she has fears about whether she will develop Alzheimer’s. She pours herself into award-winning books and television projects about the disease.  “I deal with my fear that way, and a certain amount of denial,” she said during a conference call for bloggers on Oct. 18.

Shriver and Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, are promoting the release of “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimers. It gives background on the disease and where we are with our understanding, and includes a variety of essays from famous and regular people, amid all of the grim statistics.

Some 5.3 million Americans have the disease, and by 2050, 16 million will–and those figures don’t include related dementias. While the average annual cost for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is $57,000, 72 percent of Americans admit they haven’t considered what their care options would be if they were to develop the disease.

America will spend about $6 billion on cancer research and about $4 billion on cardiovascular research in 2011, but just $500 million on Alzheimer’s research. The first wave of Baby Boomers start turning 65 in 2011, and the percentage of our population diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will begin to grow substantially.

“We are facing a tsunami, and we have no national policy for dealing with Alzheimer’s,” Shriver says. “It will be, I believe, in large part up to the Baby Boomer women to push for the advancements with this disease.”

Read my previous post about “The Shriver Report.”

Order your own copy of “The Shriver Report.”