Gordon Goldsmith spent his Navy service in World War II peering down the open bomb bay door of a bomber — camera in one hand, clinging to a metal overhang with the other — as he took reconnaissance photographs of Japanese-held islands in the Pacific.
While Goldsmith’s future activities were not as physically dangerous or daring, they were a fitting foretaste of his later life, according to family and friends—a life devoted to photography, and service both to his community, as well to the students he taught in the Huntington School District.
Goldsmith, 91, of Halesite, died Jan. 16 of natural causes at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, said his son, Scott, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Goldsmith was born in Baltimore and after graduating from high school joined the Navy and was assigned to aerial photography, his son said.
After the war his father went to Kent State University in Ohio on the GI bill and studied photojournalism, then worked first for a freelance service that supplied picture of breaking news, such as fires and crime scenes, to the Daily News in New York City. His father also worked as a civilian photographer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and as a photographer at Roosevelt Raceway, the younger Goldsmith said.
But it was hard to make a living as a photographer, Scott Goldsmith said, so his father went to graduate school at Long Island University, and with a degree in education, eventually began a decades-long career teaching social studies at the Finley Middle School in Huntington.
After his retirement, Goldsmith became extremely active in the community, and in 2016 was named one of the Huntington Senior Citizens of the Year, his son said.
Among other activities, Goldsmith was president and vice president of the Retired Teachers of Huntington; historian of a local American Legion Post; vice commander of the Suffolk County Jewish War Veterans, and served on both the Suffolk and Huntington Veterans Advisory Boards, and as an active member of the Huntington Camera Club and the North Shore Civil War Round Table
And these were just some of Goldsmith’s community activities.
Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland said Goldsmith was almost always involved in cleanup walks during the Keep Huntington Beautiful Campaign, always ready with a historical anecdote about the area, whether they were tidying up places such as Crab Meadow or Gold Star Battalion Beach.
“He knew a lot of things,” which he enjoyed sharing, Berland said. “He was someone who really loved life.”
Goldsmith was also an aide to Rabbi Paul Swerdlow, lead chaplain at the Northport VA Medical Center. Swerdlow said that Goldsmith’s wife, Sonya, told him that while he was tough enough to take grisly and graphic pictures for the newspaper, his “very tender … sensitive”” side also came out.
And whether it was helping to clean up town beaches, or at the VA, or on battlefield trips with the Civil War Round Table, Goldsmith had his camera ready, taking pictures which he would distribute.
William Finlayson, a fellow member, of the roundtable recalled Goldsmith putting together a booklet of photos of one of the group’s trips to a battlefield.
“Gosh, we miss him so, he was such a good guy,” Finlayson said.
In addition to his son and wife, Goldsmith is survived by a daughter, Susan Levin, of Halesite; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Services were at Gutterman’s in Woodbury; burial was at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn.