Heart Breaking News – Chris~Craft Legend Christopher John Smith Passes Away


BREAKING NEWS- This just in from Fellow Woody Boater Bob Braaf with the sad news.

It is with great sadness that I inform you all that Chris~Craft Legend Christopher John Smith died this morning at his home near Holland, Michigan. He passed peacefully in his sleep of natural causes, with family at the bedside. He was 95 years old this 4th of July, 2022. Born in 1927 in Algonac, Michigan, he was the last of the children of Bernard and Dora Smith, and the last great grandson of Christopher Columbus Smith, founder of Chris~Craft. He was the last of the Smiths to work for the family-owned Chris~Craft Company and with his passing goes so much knowledge and experience.

Fair winds and calm seas, Chris. We will miss you.

No services will be held, at his request. Please donate to your favorite marine school or charity in his name, if you wish.

Bob Braaf


Here is the link to his official Obituary

40 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I was honored to talk to Chris a few times over the years. Even though he was always so friendly and gracious, I knew that I was talking to a great man and legend. He was second to none as a story teller and the best inboard boat handler I ever saw!
    RIP Chris Smith. You will be long remembered!

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      We are grateful to have Odyssea as one of our Michigan gang boats. We will always remember her original captain!

  2. Don Palmer
    Don Palmer says:

    I had the opportunity to meet Chris at the “Chris Craft Rendezvous” a few years back. I asked him if I could take him for a boat ride. His immediate response was “I never turn down a boat ride. What a pleasure to talk with him and hear his stories. A very gracious man. God Bless him!

  3. Art Armstrong
    Art Armstrong says:

    I too has the pleasure of meeting and talking to Mr. CrisCraft. It was such a joy to talk to him. I was so honored when he and his daughters asked Molly-O to be a part of their book on Transom Names.
    May he rest in peace, our condolences go out to his family.

  4. Murdock
    Murdock says:

    What a gentleman.
    I remember when Steve Northius first launched a dream called Grand-Craft and he was able to bring Chris aboard.
    Chris had tremendous patience with all and if you talked lovingly about your Chris Craft and how special it was, his response was “I could of had any boat on the line, but yours was always my favorite”.
    That’s the kind of wonderful person he was and always a gentleman of the old school.
    The best.

  5. Don vogt
    Don vogt says:

    Sincere Condolences to the smith family. He was a fine fellow and a gentleman. There is this Jewish saying that I have appropriated ( I don’t think they’d mind) “may his memory be a blessing.” No question about it in this case.

  6. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    Our sincere condolences to the smith family. He was a fine fellow and a gentleman. There is this Jewish saying that I have appropriated ( I don’t think they’d mind) “may his memory be a blessing.” No question about it in this case.

  7. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    I always enjoyed talking with Chris at Hessel. I was hoping that he would be in Algonac last June. Like others have said . He was friendly, very nice, and his stories were always interesting.
    In the words of Kenny Rogers. The best that we can hope for is to die in your sleep. Rest in Peace Chris Smith, you sure left your mark on our world.

  8. Texx
    Texx says:

    In 2012 Matt & I had the pleasure of joining Chris & his daughter for a day of cruising the glorious waters of the St. Clair Flats during the Algonac boat show.

    It was an experience I will always cherish. Chris Smith was a complete gentleman and will be missed.


  9. Peter Stephens
    Peter Stephens says:

    A true gentleman who loved to tell and swap stories about family history, especially if it included a C/C! He will be deeply missed by his family and his extended family in the wood boat universe!

  10. David Irvine
    David Irvine says:

    Met him quite a few times. He was in his element at boat shows. I even took a lot of photos in his basement in Holland while working on my masters thesis 35+ years ago.

    Rest in wave Chris and our thoughts/prayers go to your family.

    • Fred Bernier
      Fred Bernier says:

      My Grandfather Henry Benjamin Moran works with Christoper Columbus Smith in the early days in Alfonso. My Grandpa went on to success in the pile driving business. I am told that he had the only pneumatic drop hammer on the Great Lakes. My hope is that they are all together in Paradise

  11. Chad
    Chad says:

    Condolences to the Smith family.

    Chris was one of the first people I met when I joined the Water Wonderland Chapter. I stopped to chat with him every chance I could; at shows or chapter events. He was always happy to share a story or answer any questions. He was even kind enough to attend the Christening and launch of my Sportsman years ago. He will be truly missed.

    R.I.P. Chris

  12. Russ Arrand
    Russ Arrand says:

    I gave Chris a ride in my 1941 22-u about 15 years ago. My boat does 50mph with the hot V8. After the ride he said “fastest I I have gone in a utility “. I feel proud.

  13. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. Chris’s woodworking and design skills were amazing. That was demonstrated on his own boats as well as other family members boats he modified. The changes he made were brilliant extensions of the original design. Whenever he told his stories, whether you were in a large group or with a couple of friends, you always felt he was talking to you directly one on one. I particularly remember one story he related to me, delivering one of the war production cruisers CC built for the Army-for patrol and rescue. At 15 years old, CC needed these boats delivered to New Orleans via the Mississippi. Chris took off down river with one all the way to the Big Easy, no radar, no laptop, no GPS. I assume he had hardcopy charts but where did he stop? I’m sure there were few marinas back in ’42/’43 when he went. I’ve done the trip just a few years ago and it took 4 of us to make it with all the tech tools we had. I could have picked his brain on that trip for hours. As Murdock related in the old African proverb – when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. So true. Condolences to the family, rest in peace CJS

  14. Gale Woods
    Gale Woods says:

    A great man. He will surely be missed. Our condolences go out to his family.
    The Michigan Chapter ACBS.

  15. Frank@Falmouth
    Frank@Falmouth says:

    I missed this yesterday. Sad news indeed. I met him many years back when I attended an ACBS Seminar at Mariners Museum down in Norfolk VA. Was in awe back then. Rest in Peace .. Im putting my flag at half staff Friday

  16. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet Chris in person.

    Fair winds and following seas!

  17. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Sadly, I never had the good fortune to meet Mr. Smith. But I have thoroughly enjoyed his stories, when I’ve found them printed in various boating publications. May his family & friends find comfort in the memories. And may he forever enjoy fair weather & calm waters.

  18. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    The very first Water Wonderland Chapter event Ronnie and I attended was back in 2010, right after we joined. It was on Lake MAC in Holland, and I got to sit next to Chris at lunch. I was in awe! We since then talked several times over the years at boats shows and I always enjoyed his stories of working at the CC plant as a young lad. RIP my friend.

  19. Arnie
    Arnie says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Chris in Wyoming. He was attending a show at Alcova Reservoir near Casper. He had his Sea Skiff there and I arrived at the show as a visitor at the visitors dock in a 19’ Lyman that had been “fishing” all morning and it looked liked it. It drew quite a crowd as a user boat at the show. Chris and I had a great conversation about Chris Craft developing the Sea Skiff line to compete with Lyman. A most enjoyable afternoon wood boating at 6000 ft with a legend. RIP Chris.

  20. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    I met Chris several times over the years at various shows – he was always open, informative and gracious. His legacy will always be with us as we work on and enjoy our boats – he seems to have had a hand in much of what we now take for granted… My condolences to his family. Rest in Peace. Chris!

  21. Mark
    Mark says:

    Chris Smith will be missed like few others. His claim to fame is obviously the Chris Craft legendary company, but it is also his offspring who are special in their own right. They will miss their dad and granddad as we all will.

  22. Carla
    Carla says:

    An historian, an educator, a true gentleman, a friend to everyone in our hobby…we all had our one-on-one chats with Chris and each and every one was memorable. So much of what I learned about Chris Crafts came from THE MAN HIMSELF. Yes, he certainly touched our lives..thanks for the memories, Mr. Smith..

  23. Chad
    Chad says:

    Chris was only 14 years old in this barrelback photo from 1941.
    He told me that the photo was rejected by the marketing department because there was too much spray. Barrelbacks were marketed as a “smooth” ride.

    He kindly signed it for me. In the spray, of course.

  24. Thomas Blance
    Thomas Blance says:

    What a wealth of knowledge.
    I got to meet and learn from Mr.Smith when I worked with his son Larry at Grand-Craft in the early 1990s

  25. Sandy Buller
    Sandy Buller says:

    Chris was not only knowledgeable, but a wonderful teacher. I feel privileged to have known him and his family. He was a very kind gentleman who was passionate about boats. He was a family man who offered his children many opportunities and they, in turn, enabled him to continue his hobby as he aged. He was a special guy.
    Sandy Buller

  26. Mike Boone
    Mike Boone says:

    Met Chris at Mount Dora 20+ years ago .Very low key unassuming man. His stories about testing new boats back in the day when he was young were very interesting.RIP

  27. William Hammond
    William Hammond says:

    We’ve lost an important connection to our boating heritage but the memories of him sharing his stories and knowledge will stay with us forever! My Condolences to his Family!! God Speed Chris!!

  28. Cliff
    Cliff says:

    Super nice guy. We were talking boats and after a long discussion we figured out he was working at the factory and on the line at the time my boat was built. I have hull number 009 he worked on the first 12. I learned a lot in that 30 minutes, thanks Chris.

  29. Bill Gillroy
    Bill Gillroy says:

    Condolences to the family and rest in peace Chris. Remember docked next to each other as the flotilla pulled up to a park during the Sunnyland north bound cruise years ago.

  30. Bill and Sheila Gillroy
    Bill and Sheila Gillroy says:

    Condolences to the family and rest in peace Chris. Remember docked next to each other as the flotilla pulled up to a park during the Sunnyland north bound cruise years ago.

  31. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    I was Going B0ating when Chris passed, he would have liked that. Always a kind and giving gentleman, I knew him and it was an honor.

    John in Va.

  32. elizabeth Harlis
    elizabeth Harlis says:

    Met Chris at the BSLOL rendezvous at Treasure Island Marina, Mississippi River, Red Wing,MN. Being a ‘local’ he invited me to ride in his boat. Best week on the river. He returned the following year and invited me again. Fare winds and following seas, Chris.

  33. Desiree Rangel
    Desiree Rangel says:

    I find myself returning to this post to read all of the wonderful things said about my Grandpa. Yes he was an amazing craftsman, kind, strong, and gentle. Above all he was simply my Grandpa. Coming up on a month since his passing, I’m still brought to tears. Thank you all for sharing your wonderful memories. He sure was special.

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