Hershey, PA | The AACA Museum, Inc. announced today the passing of one of its primary founders: William H. “Bill” Smith. “On behalf of the entire Museum Community, our volunteers, Board members, and donors, I express condolences to Bill’s family and the loss to the hobby,” said Jeffrey Bliemeister, Museum Executive Director.
“Bill was larger-than-life. He accomplished so much yet did it in a way without seeking attention to himself. He was a true gentleman.” — Jeffrey Bliemeister.
Bill was involved in the old car hobby from an early age, buying, restoring, and modifying vehicles of all types. A native of the Wilkes Barre Scranton area and a US Navy Veteran, he rose to national prominence when he became Executive Director of the Hershey, PA-based Antique Automobile Club of America, a position he held for 17 years. Under his tenure and through his leadership, the Club grew in size and scope, forming the AACA Museum and AACA Library and Research Center. He also served as president of all three organizations.
Bill was an active member of various professional organizations, such as SEMA and ARMO, and the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Mequiar’s Person of the Year, in 2005. While he was proud of the honors he received, the people he met and worked with mattered most to him. His list of friends and supporters was a veritable “who’s who” of the automotive hobby. “It didn’t matter if you were a world-famous celebrity, an owner of a multi-million-dollar collection, or a stranger just met at a car show, Bill treated everyone with the same warmth and respect,” remembers Bliemeister. “He was a true ambassador for our hobby, and he will be greatly missed.”
In 2019, the Museum created a recognition program for those who have made noteworthy contributions toward the institution’s advancement, entitled the William H. Smith Fellowship. On Wednesday, October 6th, this year’s William H. Smith Fellows class will be inducted at our annual Night at the Museum gala.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife, Jeanne. Part of their joint legacy is memorialized in the Museum’s Rotunda, which bears their names. “Fall Hershey,” the world’s most celebrated swap meet and automotive gathering, saw Bill in his element. The Museum will honor his memory with a special week-long lobby display, which includes the 1959 Chevrolet El Camino that he restored to award-winning status. A memorial service is planned at the Museum on September 29th, 4 pm.