Philip Carlyle Smaby
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Smaby, Philip Carlyle Phil Smaby, a loving father, caring friend, unassuming philanthropist, and internationally admired Twin Cities Realtor®, died peacefully on Tuesday, October 21 from recently diagnosed lung cancer. He was surrounded by his children, loved ones, and hospice caregivers at his Friendship Village home overlooking a pond which glistened with blazing fall colors from the glorious afternoon sun. On September 5, Phil proudly celebrated his 90th birthday with the publication of his just-completed memoirs, "Always a Move Ahead". He was preceded in death in 2003 by his beloved wife of 61 years, Margaret. He is dearly missed by the families of his four children: Mark (Joanne), Gary (Nanci), John (Linda), and Anne, all from Minneapolis. Phil was much loved by Margaret's sister, Estelle Knudsen; and his 11 nieces and nephews, 8 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Over the last five years, Phil shared a very special relationship with his dear friend, companion and caregiver, Donna Sullivan. He cherished the summer visits from many of Donna's 6 children and 30 grandchildren to his favorite spot on the planet – his cabin on pristine North Star Lake near Marcell, MN. Born in the Norwegian-American community of Peterson, MN, ‘Fip' was the youngest of Nels and Tina Smaby's five children to grow up on the family farm at the edge of town. He fondly recalled travelling through the picturesque Root River Valley by horse-drawn sleigh in the winter. Like his older siblings (Geneva, Bill, Art, and Norris), Phil was a born athlete. He became a high school star in the only sport available in his tiny rural community – basketball. Fortunately, it was a sport that favored his six foot five and a half inch stature. In 1936, he was admitted to St. Olaf College on both athletic and academic scholarships. Despite that assistance and a job, he was unable to scrape together the $400 for room, board and tuition to continue the next year. Phil transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he shared a room with his brother Art who had just started a business career. Although Phil desired to go to medical school, his limited resources led him to major in business administration; a choice he never regretted. He joined the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, where he formed many life-long friendships, including his most endearing one to a young and beautiful art student, Margaret Hagen. After graduation in 1941, Phil was offered two good jobs but with war imminent, he decided to sign on to the Navy Air Corps waitlist. While waiting to clear the list, he took a trip to LA to visit a fraternity brother. On that trip, he stumbled onto a draft-deferred job at Douglas Aircraft that was a perfect fit with his business degree. The next year Phil convinced his dearest Margaret to join him in Long Beach and the couple was married on August 1. When job deferments were cancelled in 1943, Phil finally did join the Navy Air Corps. His stellar job performance at Douglas helped him land a plum accounting post at Pan Am Airways in San Francisco. After Phil's release from the Navy in May 1946, the couple returned to Minneapolis with their first child Mark to start a new life and a new career in the field that became his life's work. Phil and his partner Ben Bermel co-founded Bermel- Smaby Realty in 1946. By 1984, Bermel-Smaby had become Minneapolis' largest real estate firm with 17 offices and over 350 sales associates. While he enjoyed his business success, he was most proud of his 51 years of dedicated service to the real estate industry. Phil served with distinction as president of every major organization in his trade, including the Boards of Realtors of both Minneapolis ('57) and Minnesota ('64) as well as the National Association of Realtors NAR (‘76) and International Federation of Real Estate (FIABCI) ('80). His 42 year term of service as the only lifetime member of the powerful NAR Executive Committee continued until his death. From humble beginnings, Bermel- Smaby became the industry's ethical gold standard; admired for the simple principles it espoused: Ethics are number one; Don't prejudge - treat everyone the same; Train employees well; Get involved in the community. Phil embodied these principles throughout his long and vital life. Phil was always actively involved in his own community. His family fondly recalled him selling Christmas Trees with his Metro Ys Men's Club, serving as the 1960 Minneapolis Aquatennial Commodore, and judging the Winter Frolics skating races at Lynnhurst Park. Ever the entrepreneur, Phil, in 1983 at age 65, led a handful of fellow retirees on the lake to pool their modest funds to bootstrap a prototype of new snow vehicle invented by a lake neighbor. The hunch eventually paid off. The fledging business quickly outgrew tiny Marcell. In 1994, ASV went public and was one of the best-performing local stocks in the 90s. Phil served as ASV's board chair from 1985 to 2003. When ASV was acquired in January 2008, it was recognized as one of America's fastest growing companies. While Phil enjoyed the thrill of meeting kings, queens and every US president since Eisenhower, he found equal joy just sitting in his bib overalls chatting with any passerby. Always committed to giving back, Phil and Margaret founded the Smaby Family Foundation in 1997 to advance their philanthropic passion to strengthen families and communities by promoting affordable home ownership and by fostering creativity and literacy in education, arts, and science, particularly among disadvantaged youth within immigrant populations. A celebration of Phil Smaby's remarkable life will be held at Wooddale Church, 6630 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, October 29. A lunch will follow the service. The family will greet friends starting at 10AM. The family requests no flowers. Memorials are preferred to the Philip C. Smaby Torske Klubben Peace Scholar Fund at the University of Minnesota Foundation. Gifts can be made online at or by calling (800) 775-2187.
This obituary was originally published in the Star Tribune.

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Published in Star Tribune from Oct. 25 to Oct. 26, 2008.
Memories & Condolences
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19 entries
February 17, 2009
February 17, 2009
To Mark, Gary, John and Anne,

I was going through a box of memorabilia and found a Christmas card from your family. This led to a web search. I was saddened to learn of the passing of both Phil and Margaret. I doubt that you would remember me. Your parents were gracious hosts when I stayed with your family while attending Gale Institute in 1957. Please accept my sympathy for your losses. Also best wishes for health and happiness in the future.
Carol Lee Gust Pelky
November 2, 2008
In Peterson we shall never forget Phillips speech at the All Class Reunion in 2005 when he spoke of his brother, Norris, and his athletic abilities.
John Erickson
October 31, 2008
To Anne and family, I am very sorry for the loss of your dad. He obviously lived a very fulfilling meaningfull life. My thoughts are with you at this time. Treasure the memories!
October 31, 2008
I don't know if you remember me, as I only had a brief tie, through BAA, many years ago. However, I want to give you my condolences about your grandpa. I read the article about him, and he sounds like he truly lived life to the fullest. May the memories lessen your sadness.
Laurie Syverson
Laurie Syverson
October 30, 2008
It was in 1979 when Mr. Smaby stopped in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota at an ice cream shop called the Treat Shoppe where I worked. I was 16 years old. I remember that evening when I was cleaning up, I found a wallet. Of course, I opened to wallet to see who it belonged to and it belonged to Mr. Smaby. I set the wallet aside until the next morning when my boss came in (which happened to be my aunt) and gave her the wallet and told her that I had found it the night before in our ice cream shop. My aunt contacted Mr. Smaby (how she found him I don’t know). The wallet and its contents were returned to Mr. Smaby. About a month had passed when I received a package in the mail. Inside the package was a thank-you letter and gift from Mr. Smaby (on the Bermel-Smaby Realty letterhead) thanking me for being such an honest young lady and returning his wallet. I have kept the gift all of these years and have thought of Mr. Smaby now and then remembering what a nice man for sending me that gift.
Deonne Lingle
October 30, 2008
As a young person right out of high school I had the pleasure of working for Phil Smaby. During my many tasks I had the pleasure to get to him both at the Lyndale office and at his home. He was a very geniune and honest man. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family.
Allen Moore
October 30, 2008
Real Estate Speaking and Time at THE LAKE
Phil Smaby was the first to encourage me to learn how to be a speaker and a part of National real estate. Back in 1977, I was confident, but looking at the pictures, anyone could wonder...can this be?

Phil encouraged me, and was mentor to many others who got involved in organized real estate. He gave,and gave, and gave. His "dozen" group of leading brokers read like a who's who of real estate back in the day. He was a founder and an anchor of the best days of real estate. That's my opinion!

Phil treated everyone the same. "Treat 'em all alike" he would preach to Bermel Smaby newbies and veterans alike. He had story after story of being surprised by people's ability to buy homes, develop land, or do good things. Phil believed in others and built belief in other people at the same time.

While I never got in on the card games played to and from real estate events, I've talked to many who played with Phil over the past 40 years who thought he was a real sharpie.

The haircut, the belief in others, and the willingness to "visit" were consistent indicators that you were talking to the genuine article. Mr. P. C. Smaby, from Peterson, MN.

We'll miss him!

Dave Beson
Dave Beson
October 28, 2008
My thoughts are with you as you go through these most difficult days.
Fran Howley
October 28, 2008
To the family of Philip Smaby:

Please accept our sympathy for your loss. It was an honor to be with Philip during his final days. May your memories bring you comfort.

The Fairview Hospice Team
Fairview Hospice
October 27, 2008
So sorry to hear about your Dad. You are in our thoughts today.

Jesse & Veneta Lykken
Jesse Lykken
October 26, 2008
Sorry to hear about your loss, my dad (Leon Shapiro) was a good friend of his and I remember meeting Phil and Margaret on many occaisions. They were extremely kind people. My thoughts are with you.
Beth Glassman
October 26, 2008
i worked for bermel-smaby all thru the mid-
60's, while at washburn.
you are in my thoughts and prayers.
it is so hard to lose a dad.
sharon ivers-meduna
October 26, 2008
In 1951, when my parents tried to buy a house in Edina and were turned away because they were Jewish, a very kind, very generous and very upset realtor with Bermel Smaby took over the search and helped my folks find a wonderful house on the Minneapolis side of the city line, on Newton Hill above Minnehaha Creek. Bermel-Smaby has been part of our best family stories ever since. The absorption of Bermel-Smaby into other larger realtors was a sad day for me. - Deborah Morse-Kahn (Howard & Joyce Kahn's girl) in Linden Hills.
Deborah Morse-Kahn
October 26, 2008
I was very sad to hear of the passsing of your Father, Statesman,Leader in everyway. The entire Real Estate Industry lost a very special person. My sincere condolenses to your entire family.
Jim & Estra Dattalo
October 25, 2008
I am so saddened by the loss of your dear father. I have such fond memories of spending time with him at the Smaby cabin and Robby still has the arrowhead Phil gave him almost 7 years ago. What a wonderful man who will be missed by so many.

Our thoughts and prayers to the Smaby family, Jim, Judy and Robby Guerrero
Judy Guerrero
October 25, 2008
May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief. Our deepest sympathy for the loss of your father. He left an outstanding legacy and stood above the rest.
Jim and Madonna Cormier
October 25, 2008
My thoughts and prayers are with the family in this time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort. I have such great memories of Phil and his wonderful family going back so many years. God bless all of you in this time of sorrow.
Michael Sell
October 25, 2008
I was saddened to read about the passing of my long time friend, Phil. We enjoyed talking about old times when we would see each other at Torske Klubben. My sympathy goes to his entire family. I am sorry that I will not be able to attend his service in person.
Donald G. Pederson
October 25, 2008
My thoughts and prayers have been with you as you took this final journey with Phil. It is hard to think of him as having passed because he was such a larger than life kind of guy. He was always ready with a big teddy bear hug, a handshake, a smile and at least one story, his presence will truly be missed. Our heartfelt sympathy to all of you. Blessings, Mary and John
Mary Havstad
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