Kenny and Teresa Smith of Orange Beach.

By John Mullen

September 27, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – The life celebration for Kenny Smith at the Undertow on Aug. 25 was just the type of celebration Kenny would have put on for other people in need. This time it was for his memory and to help wife Teresa.

“That party up there, that’s what Kenny would have loved,” Teresa said. “That’s his thing. He’d a been the guy cooking in the kitchen, he’d been the guy when the cops walked in saying ‘hey, I know y’all here to buy some food. Come on over here and help out.’

“Him and I would go around and round up donations, always. Anytime somebody was in a jam, anytime somebody needed help, that was us. That was what he would’ve liked.”

Kenny and wife Teresa have been residents of the Alabama Gulf Coast since 1982 and together for 40 years, married for 38.

“When we moved out here we went from Foley to Gulf Shores and from Gulf Shores out to here,” Teresa said. “And, I had never lived in a trailer before. Kenny said it’ll only be for three months and it was eight years,” she said through a peel of laughter.

Teresa was sitting at her kitchen table in the house Kenny, she and a variety of friends built in Orange Beach. Kenny, well-known as a boat captain, fishing deckhand, maintenance supervisor, bartender and cook died on Aug. 16 after battling a variety of ailments for the past two and a half years or so.

“He loved to build stuff,” Teresa said. “He could build anything. He built that island right there and put the tile on it. He and friends of ours with their crew built this house. Him and his dad did the electric. Him and a friend did these archways. He did all the woodwork, all the staining, all the painting. The only thing we had done by somebody else was the plumbing and whoever poured the slab. Everything else was us and friends.”

It’s where she feels comfortable, where she can smile at the memories made there over the years.

“That’s the most important thing to me, keeping this house,” she said. “This is my sanctuary. He wanted this for us. I thought I’d never have a house. Ever, ever. Wasn’t expecting to. People don’t anymore. It’s not like when your parents or grandparents were coming up. This is the most important thing to me. Hanging on to this.

“He passed away peacefully, at home surrounded by people who loved him.”

As she sipped a glass of wine she gushed about the outpouring of support from the community with the memorial celebration, the donations and help from the fundraiser as well as personal contributions of friends.

“And all these people, everything they’ve done for us, I cannot begin to thank them enough,” Teresa said. “They just have no idea how much it means. He always told me we have lots of friends. These people all have your back and you don’t ever have to worry.

“And, he was right.”

Besides the fundraiser, her co-workers at Doc’s have stepped up to cover her three shifts a week. Teresa is still on the schedule but others on the staff volunteer for her shift and give the tips to her.

“The staff, doing this stuff for me, working shifts and donating the money, they’re giving me time to get my stuff together so that I can go back to work,” Teresa said. “I’m not going up in there and taking my business. They told me take all the time I need and they totally understand. You couldn’t ask for better than that. You just couldn’t.”

The Schwartz family, longtime owners of Doc’s Seafood Shack, all made donations and all came to the fundraiser on Aug. 25 as well.

“And Richard and Sally and David and Jimmy showing up like that and the girls from work helping out,” Teresa said. “I cannot begin to thank the people enough for everything they’ve done.”

On this bright afternoon at her kitchen table in the massive kitchen she and Kenny  built and she loves, Teresa reminisced about all the times through the years, the various jobs Kenny had and was great at. And how he was great at being Kenny.

“Here’s my thing and I don’t want to get weepy,” she said. “He was a good husband, he was a good man, he was a good friend, he was a good father, he was a good provider. He did everything he could to make sure we had a good life. And he and I together worked as a team. I never had to be jealous, he never had to be jealous. We didn’t have that kind of relationship. It wasn’t like that.”

One of those jobs provided the vacation of lifetime for their little family. Kenny was captain of a boat owned by a man in Huntsville and it stayed in Orange Beach Marina during the summers. In the winter its homeport was Chub Cay in the Bahamas.

“When he’d get back from the Bahamas he was so sick of eating lobsters, they have a lot of lobsters down there and you could bring so many back, the tails,” Teresa said. “But they would eat it the whole time they were there. He was so sick of eating lobster when he would get back home.

“We would have to put off our anniversary and my birthday was two weeks after. A lot of times we didn’t celebrate those until he got back because he would be gone down there on trips. When he got back all I wanted was lobster and all he wanted was a hamburger. Literally a hamburger on the grill. It was the funniest thing. And I’d have candles lit and it was all romantic and nice because we’re celebrating our anniversary and my birthday.”

But then came the time she and Adam were included in a trip to the Bahamas, winged down there by the man who owned the boat and the plane.

“They picked me and Adam up at the airport in Pensacola and that was the first real, honest-to-God vacation we’d ever gone on in our lives,” Teresa said. “It was unbelievable. We stayed across the street from the Atlantis and that hotel was affiliated with the Atlantis you had access to everything that the Atlantis had to offer.”

On the very first day, Kenny hit a jackpot on a slot machine in the casino but didn’t have anything to spend it on.

“Kenny, there was a casino there, and Kenny hit the slot machine for $1,000 the first day,” Teresa said. “Now, mind you his boss is paying for the rooms, the food, the everything. We didn’t have to pay for a dime. But Kenny hit a slot machine for $1,000 the first day and the rest of that trip I was laying out there getting the best tan of my life listening to Calypso bands and drinking Miami Vice and wondering what the working folks were doing.

“It was just a dream vacation. And I do have a picture of me, him and Adam in front of the Atlantis sitting on the edge of a fountain. It’s really cool.”

There was one perilous moment on the trip. Or at least to Teresa’s reckoning it was perilous.

“He took Adam snorkeling and he showed him how to dive down into the rocks and look for the lobsters because their antennas stick out,” she said. “I don’t swim so I’m having a heart attack because I’m sitting there in this boat and we’re waiting and we’re waiting and we’re waiting. I said ‘that’s my baby down there.’ He said ‘he’s fine.’ I waited a few more seconds and I’m like ‘that’s my baby down there. You better go get him. Kenny, swear to God, if he don’t come up I’m jumping in and then you’re going to have to get us both.’ All I seen was a hand come up out of the water with a big fat lobster. And, there was my boy.”

Perhaps the funniest thing about the trip was not getting back on time. The plane to take them home was delayed by a few days.

“It was probably the first time I’d ever called in to miss work,” Teresa said unable to hold in the laughter. “From the Bahamas!”

But it wasn’t all lobsters and Bahamas trips. When the first summer on the Alabama coast ended they first learned the reality of the offseason.

“We didn’t know about winter back then,” Teresa said. “So, winter came and everything was super seasonal and everything just shut down. Work shut down and if you couldn’t get unemployment you were screwed. It was hard that first winter and we went back home for Christmas and Adam and I stayed with my sister for awhile just take some pressure off of everything and he got more settled.”

Kenny working or finding work was never a problem. He was a deckhand on charter fishing boats, captained charter fishing boats and enjoyed just being around the water.

“He loved to fish, he loved to swim, he loved to hunt back when he hunted,” Teresa said. “Just being on the water. We had a boat for years and just going out riding around and being out on the water. We’d go in the middle of the week because that’s when my days off were and nobody else was out there. It was really nice, it was really pleasant. Just get away from everything, relax and chill.”

Too many years of battling the seas with his knees on boat decks took a toll and doctors advised him to find a new vocation. He ended up as the maintenance supervisor at Sea Chase condominiums. 

“He always found a job, he always had a job,” Teresa said. “Kenny could do anything. He could do carpentry, electric, you name it. Plumbing. He was a real good handyman that’s why he was so good at maintenance supervisor. It was his thing. He loved fixing things.”

His last stop was as a jack-of-all trades at a popular local restaurant and music venue.

“He went to Happy Harbor and he cooked some, he bartended, he did whatever they needed,” Teresa said. “If they were having a fish fry Kenny was the guy. If they were having a band that night Kenny was the guy. He was there, he was helping out doing whatever needed to be done. Everybody loved Kenny’s hushpuppies. Beer is the only liquid you put in it, lots of jalapenos, lots of corn and lots of onions.”

Kenny was an avid Alabama Crimson Tide football fan and they watched the games together.

“I thought it would be a lot harder watching that first game but it was just a fun day, pleasant day,” Teresa said. “It was good. I tried to be a positive person and hang onto the good. Yes, I’ve had my moments but baby steps. If you have a bad day you just take a day off. Just chill.

“When I watched the game, I was talking to him the whole game. When it got so far ahead, because that was always his saying and I could hear him: This ain’t even a game anymore. You need to turn it off. I said ‘I can hear you baby and guess what? I ain’t changing the channel and you’re just going to have to suffer through it because I’m watching the whole game. What you gonna do?’”

In many, many ways her life companion, best friend and husband will always be with her in the house they built.

“I was with that man for 40 years, married for 38 but I was with him for 40 years,” Teresa said. “There will never be anybody else. That’s it, that’s all. He was the love of my life and always will be.”

THANK YOUS ABOUND

Teresa said thanking everybody is an impossible task but below is a list of every person and business that contributed to the fundraiser.

“Every single solitary one, everybody that came to the benefit, everybody that bid on things, everybody that bought plates of food,” she said. “Everybody. I don’t want to leave anybody out, I don’t want to offend anyone but my God it’s just so many. I’ve tried to write thank-you notes for people but it’s just too many.”

Talluah’s and Bobby Wooldridge, My Diva, Niki and Linda Bradley, Happy Harbor, Undertow, Bumper to Bumper, Orange Beach Tattoo, Emporium, Frank & Co. Jewelry, Chris Gardner, Top Hat and Jackie, Playa, Fairwater II, Chip Day of Chipper’s Clipper, Sand Dollar, Sue Giriter, Kool Fish, Wet Stitches, Rum Sisters, Alabama Crown, Al’s 5&10, J&M Tackle, Blalock’s Seafood, Duck’s Diner, Keg Lounge, Don Lloyd, Villaggio, Fisher’s, Pleasure Island Tiki Bar, Momma Lottie’s Pizza, Pappas Pizza Pi, All Island Flowers, Cactus Cantina, Men’s Den, The Meat Mart, The Diner, Ginny Lane, Yoho Rum Taco, Barefoot Island Grill, Sam’s Stop and Shop and the OBA Community Website.

“Most important of all Doc’s Seafood Shack who made it all possible. Thank you all so much,” Teresa said.