One hundred years later to the day, his granddaughter Diana and her husband Paul Guraedy "planned a party," as Paul put it, to celebrate a special announcement the family was going to make that would impact the future of the 650-acre Smith homestead known as Whooping Hollow Woods.
Diana's roots go deep in this drop-dead gorgeous valley 6 miles south of Alpena Pass.
"This place has been the one constant throughout my life," she said. "Despite all the places across the nation that I have lived, this is the place that never changed."
To the end of preserving this area of lush mountainsides and pasture land for future generations to enjoy they have deeded 570 of the 650 acres to the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. "When Paul and Diana approached our Board, we jumped at the chance to help them out," NWALT Board member and local estate planning attorney Micki Harrington. "The mission of NWALT is to protect land for ecological, agricultural, and historic purposes, so it was a natural fit."
"Preservation of Whooping Hollow Woods is a significant contribution to the preservation of clean water in the Long Creek watershed," Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch staff member. OWW participated in implementing the irrevocable trust.
"The original homestead is that little building over there," Diana said pointing to a small weathered structure overgrown with vegetation. That's where my grandparents lived, she said. They built it two years after they settled on the initial 160 acre parcel. Smith and subsequent family members continually added to it over the years.
Diana's father was superintendent of schools at Norfork when she was a child but she still spent substantial amounts of time at Whooping Hollow. She later attended the University of Arkansas and after graduation briefly taught school in the NW Arkansas area before joining the National Park Service serving at the Grand Canyon.
Paul was born and raised in south Louisiana... he was a cajun. While some folks claim they were born in the wrong era, Paul thinks he was born in the wrong place. "I came out of the swamps [of Louisiana] and discovered there were dry spots in [other] states," he said. And he liked those areas.
"We discovered several years after we married that there was a pool [among the other canyon park employees] on whether or not we would make it to December," Diana said. "And now we've made it to 47 years."
Because the National Park Service had in place at that time a prohibition against spouses working within the same park Diana gave up her position. But she had little trouble, though, finding a job wherever Paul was posted. "She was well qualified,'" Paul said. "Enough so she didn't have a problem finding a position. State parks, adjacent federal parks, and other places were glad to have her [work for them]."
Paul and Diana retired to Whooping Hallow after they retired in 1995. Between 1994 and 1997 they built a beautiful lodge-style home inspired by the lodges of the Southwest, which were their most beloved locations. "My favorite postings were in the Southwest... [my favorite] was Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona," Paul said. "My last posting was in Alaska." Over his career he served in 13 different parks from the Smokies to the Southwest and Rockies, up to Alaska.
For the last 17 years the Guraedys were big-time RVers. Until this year they spent large chucks of time out on the road, which suited their independent spirits well. "Now the RV is parked down at our son's house," Paul said.
The wife from the Ozark mountains and the husband from the Louisiana swamps have been a perfect match. "It's been frustrating, irritating and exasperating... but never boring to be married to a Cajun," Diana said, with a big smile, of their long marriage. "I couldn't ask for a better life than we've had."
They will live in the home for their remaining years and upon their death the house and remaining 80 acres will also go to the land trust. The land belongs to the NWA Land Trust, "But we have retained hay, cattle [grazing] and hunting rights," Paul said. He has established a hunting club that will still use the property for hunting. "I see this [eventually] as an educational facility," he added. That's another reason for the lodge-style construction Paul said, because it lends itself more to educational activities.
The Guraedys have had a truly remarkable life working the National Park Service. They have had an equally remarkable, comfortable and satisfying retirement. Today Paul sports a full white beard on his face with smooth bald head, giving him a look reminiscent of the iconic photographer and wilderness conservationist Ansel Adams.
The gift of Whooping Hollow Woods is truly one made out of altruistic motives, not for the tax benefits gained by the trust donation. Tax breaks for such gifts are for the wealthy Paul said. The way it works it wouldn't benefit us to take advantage of the tax benefits." He added that it actually would have cost them more to jump through the required IRS hoops than they would have benefited.
The date of the announcement, May 12 of this year, was perhaps an indication that the gift was meant to be.
"Diana was looking over some of her aunt's letters, after we had set the date. She read these words, penned by her aunt in a letter back east, 'Arrived Alpena Pass, May 12'," Paul said, "exactly 100 years to the day of our announcement."
That's got to be a sign.