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Aluminaries: Phil Smart
The Best Samaritan

Phil Smart
Photo Courtesy of Phil Smart.
To tell the story of Phil Smart Sr. is to encapsulate one of Seattle's most beloved businessmen, philanthropists and volunteers.

Smart, who turns 90 on Sept. 21, believes there are three eight-hour "hunks" in each day—a third for work, a third for rest and a "third eight" that defines who we are as individuals. Smart has devoted his "third eight" to volunteerism—mainly with kids.

In 1939, the 20-year-old Smart left the UW as a sophomore to fight in World War II. After he returned home, he sold cars at a Chevrolet dealership on Capitol Hill and in 1959 bought out the owner, establishing Seattle's first and most-successful Mercedes-Benz dealership.

At 42, he became the first male volunteer to work the evening ward at Seattle Children's Hospital. Every Wednesday for more than 40 years, he sat bedside for three hours with sick and dying children. For 26 years starting in 1972, he dressed up as Santa Claus and passed out presents on Christmas morning.

"The children became my teachers," Smart says. "I took Fear 101. Pain 101. Vision 101. Dedication 101. They changed my life in exchange for, what, three hours out of my 24? They taught me life and death and everything in between."

Smart has written two memoirs about his 40 years of volunteering at Children's — Angels Among Us and The Real Angels Among Us. Proceeds from book sales benefit the hospital. What else would you expect from him?