Kittanning accountant retires after 55 years
KITTANNING — Known to many as “the guy who used to walk down Pine Hill Road to work,” local accountant Elmer Smith hung up his walking shoes Tuesday after 55 years.
Smith, a Redbank native, began his career in 1951 working for a Pittsburgh accounting firm, but quickly decided to move back to his home territory of Kittanning to do what he loved to do.
“I decided after a short time that I would rather work with people than with large corporate entities,” he said from his bare office on his final day of work. “The big companies were just so impersonal to deal with.”
Well before he embarked on a long career, Smith said he knew he wanted to become an accountant after writing a research paper during his freshman year in high school.
“I always liked working with numbers and was good in math and bookkeeping,” he said. “I learned that accountants carried a lot of responsibility and I wanted to take on the challenge.”
With the technology available today, many people can do their income taxes on their home computer, and Smith is no different.
“My son got me Turbo Tax and so this year, I will be completing my taxes on the computer,” he said. “But it wasn’t always that easy to just punch in the numbers and let the computer do the work.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, Smith said tax forms were completed by writing out all the figures by hand, in pencil, and then having the secretary type three complete copies, using carbon paper.
“It got a little easier when copy machines became available,” he said. “You still had to rewrite several pages of numbers if there was a mistake.”
While he spent much of his adult life cramming numbers at his North Jefferson Street office, Smith was also actively involved in the Boy Scouts of America.
“When my oldest son joined the Cub Scouts in 1959, I was asked to be on the pack committee,” he said. “The first meeting I went to, they voted me in as treasurer.”
From that point on, Smith said he spent many weekends with his five sons, camping and attending various scout activities.
“It made me proud to watch my sons grow and achieve the rank of Eagle Scout,” he said. “One even became a Life Scout.”
As health problems started to slow Smith down, he decided to lessen his activities in and out of the office.
“I should have retired 13 years ago when I turned 65,” he joked. “But I had an obligation to give back to the community that has given me so much over the years.”
Smith said he plans to travel with his wife Eva, looking for steam engine trains and tending to his rosebushes and yard work.
“I used to cut my grass once a week, but who knows, now I might get bored and cut it twice a day, he said, pondering the free time he will have during retirement.
While tax return preparation won’t be his daily task, Smith said he can recall times when he would work until 3 a.m., walk home, eat and shower, and be back at work at 5 a.m.
“It was tough, but you had to be available when your clients were,” he said. “They came in at all hours and had their information in everything from grocery bags to shoe boxes to cardboard boxes.”
And despite having plans to travel and enjoy his free time, Smith said he will continue to work as a consultant with his partners at his firm, Smith, Bertocchi, Arbaugh, and Hall.
“I told them if they ever need me, just pick up the phone and I will do what I can to help them,” he said.