Jonathan Lutts Smith passed away quietly from complications of liver disease and kidney failure on May 21, 2021, in New York State. He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on October 12, 1952, the third child and second son of Laurence Decker Smith and Barbara Jean Lutts Smith. He was a bonus baby, born well after his older brother and sister, and he was adored.
Jon grew up in East Grand Rapids, graduated in 1970 from East Grand Rapids High School, and attended Hobart College, graduating in 1974 with a degree with high honors in economics. In 1976 he received an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, moved to New York, and began a 27-year association with Citigroup, where he developed expertise in corporate real estate financing, corporate lending and leveraged buy-outs, and financed the acquisition of several NFL and NHL franchises. There followed positions with Fifth Third Bank and Community Shores Bank (both West Michigan), and Strategic Growth, a bank holding company (Denver). In 1990, he was named to American Banker’s list of the top 40 bankers under 40.
In 1978 Jon moved to Chicago and in 1980 he married Betsy Rodgers. The marriage, which resulted in three wonderful children—Stuart, Austin and Emily—ended in 2000. From 2000 to 2010 he was married to Betsy Skinner Smith.
Jon was known for his generosity and willingness to help others, his quick wit and remarkable networking skills. Colleagues remember with respect his knowledge, competence and management skills. He had a wonderful smile, great charm, and an ability to quickly and warmly connect with others. He was a great storyteller. One of his high school classmates remembers him as “Smitty, the guy who could always get things done.” This can-do attitude was especially evident when Austin was due to be born the day before his cancer surgery in a different hospital; despite very strict instructions to stay put in preparation for his surgery, he managed to sneak out and be present for Austin’s birth.
He loved golfing, cooking, skiing, and boating of every variety, from careening over frozen Reeds Lake in his iceboat to taking countless kids tubing and waterskiing on Lake Michigan to sailing a 45-footer in the Caribbean. The third generation of the Smith family to earn a degree from the University of Michigan, he “bled maize and blue.” For nearly every home football game, Jon would load up the Suburban with kids and gear and make the trek from Winnetka to Ann Arbor. The king of the tailgate, he was famous for his custom omelets.
Jon was also a strong supporter of community philanthropy. As a cancer survivor, he dedicated much of his spare time to supporting cancer patients and survivors, raising money for related causes, and doing what he could to share his experience. He once wrote in an email thanking friends for contributing to one of his fund-raising efforts: “Thanks again for your support—it means a lot to cancer patients and their families throughout Colorado. Hopefully, my grandchildren will think of cancer as a thing of the past.” He regularly participated in charity runs and memorably rappelled “Over the Edge” of a Denver high-rise to raise money for the Cancer League of Colorado.
Jon was predeceased by his parents and is survived by his sister Sally; brother David (Peggy); son Stuart Decker Smith (Kyle); son Austin Boyd Petersmith (Amanda); daughter Emily Elizabeth Smith; and his twin grandchildren, Henry and Nora Petersmith. He will be remembered with love by many, particularly his partner Doreen Barry in New York and longtime friend Andrea Hageman in Denver, both of whom gave him amazing support and care in his final illness.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 26, at 1pm at Mayflower Congregational Church, 2345 Robinson Road SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Cancer League of Colorado (cancerleague.org) or the scholarship fund of Traverse Area Community Sailing (tacsailing.org). We would also like to encourage those who loved and remember Jon to consider being organ donors.
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