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    Stu Smith – December 7, 1940 – February 3, 2014

    Stuart (Stu) Morrison Smith died after a brief battle with cancer on Monday, February 3, surrounded by old friends and family members including his beloved husband, Dave Earl. Mr. Smith was 73.

    Stu was a lifelong Bay Area resident and a larger-than-life figure in San Francisco, the city he adored and where he had lived for more than 40 years. A fifth-generation Californian, he was born on December 7, 1940, in Palo Alto to Morrison Stuart Smith and Carolyn Elizabeth Smith, both now deceased.


    After attending Foothill College and majoring in philosophy at San Jose State University, Stu partnered with a childhood friend to lead an electronics manufacturing firm in Palo Alto. He worked there until the early 1970s, when he departed for San Francisco to enter the bar and restaurant business. From then until the mid-1990s, he owned or managed a series of quintessentially San Francisco dining and drinking establishments, including Zott’s, the Chestnut Street Bar and Grill, the Baja Beach Club, 39 Main in Tiburon and Harpoon Louie’s. Stu was a “front-of-the-house” operator – a master publican – seemingly always present and happily working the crowd, telling stories (some of them true) and making his customers feel like they were right at the center of the action.

    In the mid 1990s, Stu pivoted yet again, this time to a life dedicated almost entirely to serving others. He worked for many civic and nonprofit organizations as both a volunteer and a leader. Last year, he received the KQED LGBT Local Hero Award, in recognition of his contributions, at a gala event held at the Castro Theatre.

    Stu’s efforts as an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, with which he was intensely involved almost daily from 1993 until only days before his death, became his passion and served as his philosophical touchstone for all his work that followed with other organizations. He was a sponsor, mentor and friend to innumerable people in recovery.

    He was Board Chair and later Board Chair Emeritus at the Shanti Project, where he also served as a volunteer for 18 years. He was a board member of the Gladstone Institute and the San Francisco Paratransit Coordinating Council. He served on the San Francisco LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, as a member of the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, and as a volunteer adjudicator for the District Attorney’s office. He worked with the UCSF AIDS Research Center and the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation. He was actively involved for many years with the Castro Country Club, a clean and sober gathering place, and one of his favorite places to hangout and find fellowship.

    Stu’s passion for hamburgers led him on quests far and wide to find the best burger, and he wrote “The Burger Bible” to share his findings. On Yelp, his tireless and well-documented pursuit of this elusive goal earned him the title “Burger Guru.”

    He hosted two local television shows – Face 2 Face with Stu Smith and The Drag Show.  And he was a frequent contributing columnist to the San Francisco Bay Times, opining on an eclectic range of topics from the abuse of handicapped parking privileges to the scarcity of
    affordable housing in San Francisco.

    Through the arc of his remarkable life, Stu touched countless people with his gentle wisdom, his sense of humor, his seemingly endless energy, his quiet humility and his uncanny ability to make others feel like they really mattered.

    He is survived by his husband, William David Earl of San Francisco; his brother, Stephen Baxter Smith of Sarasota, FL; his nieces Samantha Jeanne Smith of Burlingame and Julie Black of Oregon and niece-by-marriage Nancy Carolyn Glover of Campbell; his nephews Spencer Calvin Smith, also of Campbell, and Cameron Baxter Smith, of Sunnyvale; his cousin Sharon Anne von Haesler of Lower Lake (CA); and Janet Ely, his former sister-in-law and dear friend since high school. His other brother, Gary Arthur Smith, predeceased him.

    A celebration of Stu’s life will be held on Sunday, March 23, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Julia Morgan Ballroom of the Merchant’s Exchange Building, 465 California Street, San Francisco.

    The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Shanti Project at