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Buford Smith (1963-2023): travelling roadside tradesman

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Buford Smith (Photograph by Judith Chambers)

A street vendor known across the island embodied an older and carefree way of life in Bermuda.

Buford Smith sold items ranging from jewellery to scented oils. He was a familiar sight in Hamilton, where he started out in the family business, Bon Marche on Court Street, and where his mother, Bernadine, was a popular community figure.

Chaplain Kevin Santucci, who officiated at Mr Smith’s funeral service last week, said the island “has suffered the loss of a well-known Bermudian selling his goods”.

Mr Smith “built a reputation for selling during the late Seventies”, and was known to “everybody” in the Court Street community.

“As the years passed, he took his expertise of selling things in a shop to the streets,” Dr Santucci said.

“He went from place to place selling small items. You would see him in Warwick, and throughout the City of Hamilton. He would set up his stationary location along the street on well-travelled routes of the people to peddle his wares.”

Buford Smith (Photograph from social media)

Dale Butler, a former government minister, said: “He had a real entrepreneurial spirit and started his career working very hard but met with a number of disappointments which set him back, which was most unfortunate because he did have a good attitude to succeed.”

Dr Santucci likened Mr Smith to the itinerant Yankee pedlars of the 19th-century US, who travelled from town to town carrying all their goods.

Mr Smith was “a natural” when it came to marketing his wares, often with humorous quips.

“Buford knew how to interact with people,” the chaplain said. “He wasn’t perfect; he had his ups and downs. But he was a friend to many.”

He called Mr Smith “a symbol of the old Bermudian way of life”.

“For the most part, Buford worked his street business to take care of his needs, and not to gratify selfish ambition.”

Dr Santucci said Mr Smith’s passing during Heritage Month marked the loss of an icon.

“His aim in life was not selfish; his purpose was to honour God, who is the source of all wisdom.”

His friend Judith Chambers recalled Mr Smith from childhood when he assisted his mother at her store, which was “a fixture on Court Street”.

“I therefore know that Buford was involved in sales from a young age, and am aware that he eventually came to run the store himself as the proprietor before later peddling goods at various locations.”

Ms Chambers said they had recently become acquainted and “I came to know Buford the person and what a nice guy he was”.

Mr Smith’s interests included cooking and gardening.

She added: “I also learnt a bit about his earlier life and life decisions made, and that he was a genuine, funny, caring, talkative person who was loyal to his friends and most respectful, but who understandably also demanded respect.

“I can hear his voice now and, as those who knew him I'm sure would agree, he had a distinctive voice that commanded attention.”

• Buford Paul Wallace Smith, a Hamilton street vendor, was born on February 24, 1963. He died in May 2023, aged 60.

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Published May 23, 2023 at 7:57 am (Updated May 23, 2023 at 11:36 am)

Buford Smith (1963-2023): travelling roadside tradesman

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