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Remembering Arlie: Well-known Danville Costco greeter dies

Celebration of life service for Arlie Smith set for Friday

Arlie Smith, a longtime and popular greeter at the Danville Costco, died early Tuesday morning after years of battling multiple sclerosis and cancer. He was 48.

A familiar face at one of the San Ramon Valley's most-visited stores for almost 25 years, Smith was known for his positivity, professionalism and friendly interactions with families -- even when his conditions sapped his strength and confined him to a wheelchair -- as well as for his devotion to raising support for hospitalized children through Costco's annual fundraising campaign.

He died at his home in Tracy around 1 a.m. Tuesday, according his wife Shari.

"There is not a better way he could have gone," Shari Smith said. "It was at home in bed. It was fast, he didn't suffer. He was able to get on the beach, ride his segway, do his projects to the very end."

Smith grew up in San Ramon, graduating from California High School in 1988. After serving two years in the Army Reserve and two years in the Navy, he started working at the Danville Costco on Fostoria Way in June 1993.

He made a strong impression on customers, who recalled his smile and genuine interest in their lives.

"He was a living angel on earth, for so many people," said Bridgette Loughnane, a Costco customer and Danville resident. "He brought so much goodness to so many people every day."

Perhaps no impression stronger than on his future wife. Shari met him in January 2002 while returning an item to Costco. Friendship blossomed into a budding relationship and the two married a year later.

The couple's lives took a turn about seven years ago when Smith was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis -- a disease that also affected his mother. And then three years ago, he received another diagnosis: renal cancer, that metastasized to his bones.

But Smith chose to see his latest diagnosis as a blessing. That same day, he wrote a long Facebook post, sharing that his kidney cancer had spread to his bones, a diagnosis that might only give him a few years to live.

"Today I found out that I don't have too many tomorrows left," he wrote. "So I will try and treat each day as though I won the lottery. I have always said that if I won I would still work at Costco, that working there is more fun than work. I'm constantly surround by so many loving coworkers & members it's hard to explain the happiness I feel."

"I feel this is a gift," he added a little further down. "I have prayed on more than one occasion for God to take me quickly and not to slowly wither away and turn into a vegetable like my mother who had Multiple Sclerosis and died a slow death."

Smith felt particularly strong about helping children, and he was an avid participant in Costco's annual fundraising drive to benefit UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.

His support for Children's Hospital took an even greater leap, though, in 2015.

A group of Costco shoppers and community members who knew of his MS and terminal cancer surprised Smith with an expenses-paid trip to Laguna Beach for him and Shari. Smith initially turned down the gift, asking to have the money donated to Children's Hospital Oakland, though later he accepted the vacation after learning that money would also be donated to the hospital.

Bay Area media were at Costco that afternoon when the shoppers surprised Smith with the vacation, and stories and videos of the event went viral, along with Smith's call to support the children's hospital.

People started donating to the hospital and participating in the campaign in droves, and Smith achieved his goal of becoming the top-fundraising Costco associate. Those efforts helped Smith earn the Tri-Valley Hero Role Model Award from Embarcadero Media that fall.

All in all, over $230,000 has been raised in his name, Shari Smith said.

The last year brought even more significant changes to the Smiths' lives. Smith was confined to a wheelchair over a year ago, and the couple moved from their San Ramon townhouse to a one-story home in Tracy, so that Smith could more easily move around.

Shari Smith, who works at home as an eBay business consultant, would drive her husband to Danville, return to Tracy and then pick him up from work. As his work shifts slowly got shorter and shorter, she spent more time driving.

"I was a professional driver," she laughed.

Smith was in a lot of pain, his wife said, but you wouldn't know it. He was still his gregarious self and devoted himself to projects around their new house.

Shari Smith recalled that the two of them had been active, outdoorsy people before MS took that away from them, but after his diagnosis, "that was our new adventure."

"Up to two weeks ago, he said 'I thank God for MS and cancer because without them none of this would have happened,'" Shari Smith remembered.

At the request of his family, a memorial donation fund for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland has been set up in Arlie Smith's honor. The fund had raised over $12,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

"Arlie was a dedicated friend of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland for over 24 years and tirelessly raised funds for our patients despite his physical challenges," said Melinda Krigel, communications director for the hospital. "He had an enormous heart and we are enormously grateful for his unwavering commitment to our hospital."

A celebration of life service will be held for him at Community Presbyterian Church in Danville Friday at 12:30 p.m. All are welcome.

"I don't think you meet many people like Arlie, who have left a footprint like Arlie," said Ken Wooten, general manger of the Danville Costco.

"A lot of people talk about wanting to make a difference, but he made it a goal," he added.

Editor's note: The memorial service time was rescheduled after the original story was published. The new time is 12:30 p.m.

Comments

31 people like this
Posted by Dan Davis
a resident of Danville
on Nov 11, 2017 at 8:02 am

Great story with a sad ending. We should all live our lives so well.


25 people like this
Posted by Arlene
a resident of Diablo
on Nov 13, 2017 at 7:37 am

Arlie was certainly a role model for all of us. I'd like to send a card to his wife, Shari. Where might we send it?


15 people like this
Posted by James von Halle
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 13, 2017 at 7:40 am

Always friendly and a good man!


17 people like this
Posted by Louise
a resident of Danville
on Nov 13, 2017 at 11:32 am

Cheerful and happy under dire circumstances. He said was happy to work and be living in such a nice place. Will miss seeing him at Costco.


13 people like this
Posted by Mary & Jeremiah
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Costco trips will never be the same again. We love you and surely miss you.


29 people like this
Posted by Diana Kalliaras
a resident of Blackhawk
on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Knowing Arlie was a reminder of how capable the human heart is for selflessness, love, compassion, humility, joy, humor and optimism. He lived to the fullest, invested in people not things, embraced life and God, and counted his blessings everyday saying Shari and Tinkerbell was his winning lottery ticket,


14 people like this
Posted by Laura Wahl
a resident of Danville
on Nov 13, 2017 at 11:43 pm

What a selfless, giving person. I will miss his friendly greeting at Cost Co.


8 people like this
Posted by Darlene Gayler
a resident of Alamo
on Nov 14, 2017 at 10:50 am

I would like to donate to UCSF Benioff Childrens'Hospital in honor of Arlie, but I'd like them to be able to notify his wife, Shari, of the donation- so she knows how many people thought so much of Arlie. Is there an email address the donation notification can be sent to?


12 people like this
Posted by Shari Smith
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 14, 2017 at 2:27 pm

UCSF BENIOFF Children's hospital set up a special link just for donations in Arlie's honor. I'm able to see each person who donated and you can leave a message and I can't express how much this means to me
The link to donate is
Www.crowdrise.com/arlie-smiths-memorial-fund


4 people like this
Posted by Westside Dave
a resident of Danville
on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Arlie was a good guy. When my kids were little they always looked forward to going to Costco to see him. He always brought a smile to our faces with his smile and kind words. He will be missed. Rest in Peace.


6 people like this
Posted by Eddie Jo Mack
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm

I was so proud to be introduced by Arlie as his Aunt. He was an angel of love to so many. Be proud Shari.
Eddie Jo Mack EP2


6 people like this
Posted by Mary Lou Baratta
a resident of Danville
on Nov 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Already Costco is just not the same without Arlie's smiling face there to great us. I knew him from cashier at Costco, year's back, then met both Shari and he at an estate sale in Walnut Creek for Hospice. After I would speak to him about MS as my mom also passed from that terrible affliction when I was 15. That was in 1956. Not much help has come to stop the disease in years since. Arlie will be missed a lot, may he rest in peace now.


4 people like this
Posted by JP
a resident of Danville
on Nov 17, 2017 at 8:31 am

What a legacy! I looked for Arlie every time I went to Danville Costco. I just wanted to say HI as if we were long time friends. He was a gem and will certainly be missed by everyone who's life he touched. God Bless you, Shari; you struck gold with this guy. Kudos to his parents for raising a remarkable man.


2 people like this
Posted by Judie Verrips
a resident of Danville
on Nov 17, 2017 at 8:56 am

A life well lived. Rest in the arms of Jesus Arlie.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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