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Raymond Ellsworth Smith Jnr 1924-2019

We received the sad news that aerial lift pioneer Raymond Smith passed away on Thursday April 18th, at the age of 95. He had been a resident of a care home for the past two years.

Smith was one of the true pioneering entrepreneurs in the powered access industry, having founded, built up and then sold several aerial lift manufacturing companies. He started out however as a young fighter pilot serving in World War II as a second Lieutenant in the 358th Fighter Group of the Army Air Force and piloted the P-47 Thunderbolt on missions over Northern Europe. On one such mission his aircraft was shot down over occupied France, and he spent five months in the Stalag Luft I prisoner of war camp in Barth, Northern Germany. He was honourably discharged as a liberated prisoner of war in 1945.
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Ray Smith

His career in the access industry began sometime after buying his father’s company Smiths Industries, where he began developing the Smith Mite-E-Lift range of push around scissor lifts. He went on to establish the Smith Tool Company, Up N Atom, and the R. E. Smith Corp. developing self-propelled scissor and vertical lifts along the way, many of which still come up for sale on web auctions and eBay. He patented a number of his aerial work platform designs and his company provided many of the lifts used on construction of the original Alaska Pipeline in the mid-1970s. in the late 1980s he and son Raymond 'Bo' Smith established a new company B.E.Besser but tragedy struck on February 16th 1989 when Bo died age 36, following a massive heart attack.
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A Smith Mite-E-Lift MP1200-14

He finally retired from business around 15 years ago, but remained very active, as a member of his church choir in Lake Forest, which performed all over the world, while working with the Lake Forest Volunteer Bureau and the Lake Forest Symphony. He was an accomplished photographer and was the semi official photographer for various local athletic teams.

He was awarded the IPAF Lifetime achievement Award in 2015, which he collected at the Summit in Washington DC that year.
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Raymond Smith with his Lifetime Achievement Award

His wife Lorraine and son Raymond ‘Bo’ Smith both passed away before him, he leaves daughters Dana, Leslie and Maggi, nine grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.

His funeral service will be held at 14:00 on Friday, May 10th at The Church of the Holy Spirit, 400 East Westminster Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Church of the Holy Spirit Choir.


My father, Ralph Klatt, admired and respected Mr. Smith, and enjoyed working with him. He had many fond memories of Smith Tool and those he worked with. I, too, enjoyed meeting and speaking with Mr. Smith on a few occasions. I pray for comfort for his family.

May 14, 2020

Craig Ihde
I worked with Ray back in the early 70’s when I was just getting started. As one of the "Grandfathers" of the US based AWP Scissor Lift industry, Ray was instrumental in developing the FIRST "Self Loading" scissor-lift however,(in my mind), his biggest accomplishment was the Smith "Moonbuggy" designed and destined for the Alaskan pipeline. Two unique features of the Moonbuggy, was its having a platform mounted "Steering Wheel" to steer the machine PLUS a TAG axle option providing 6-wheel drive! (Unheard of in those days!)

Ray also had a local rental fleet called: “Safety High-Reach” - In my early years, I was sent to help run it.

This Creative genius is now home with his son, Bo (the designer & developer of the Phoenix Scissor Lift)who died way to early and was sorely missed by Ray.

The industry Giants continue to pass away ... but it was a pleasure to know him.

Apr 27, 2019