Dale Clarence Smith, a fifth-generation Cape Codder and former mechanic for the Wellfleet Dept. of Public Works, died peacefully at home in Eastham on Jan. 16, 2023. He was 73.
Born in 1949 to Clarence and Phyllis Smith of Wellfleet, Dale attended Wellfleet Elementary School and Nauset High School. Although he was an only child, he never felt lonely, having grown up with many cousins and in a Wellfleet neighborhood bustling with kids.
Dale discovered his lifelong passion at a young age: cars, hot rods, and anything with an engine, which earned him the childhood nickname “Daley Dashboard.” By the time he was five, Dale could identify every car by sight and many by the sound of their engines alone, his family said. He knew the make and model of every classic car and the ins and outs of engines like the back of his hand.
After graduating from high school, Dale attended East Coast Aero Tech, where he learned about airplane mechanics, one of the many things he was good at; most involved mechanics and working with his hands. He put his carpentry skills to use helping his uncles Malcolm and Gilbert Rose with their house-building business. Later, he maintained and repaired boats for Bay Sails Marine in Wellfleet. And at John F. Noons in Truro he built an enduring friendship with his boss, Ducky, and learned to operate and fix everything from dump trucks and loaders to backhoes. At Tilcon Connecticut’s former Eastham location, Dale operated an asphalt paving machine and paved roads throughout Cape Cod.
Before retiring in 2017, Dale was the maintenance mechanic for the Wellfleet DPW. For 17 years, he maintained and operated the town’s vehicles and equipment and plowed snow. Kathy, his wife of 35 years, would joke that he was a “company man” because of his devotion to his work.
When he wasn’t on the clock, Dale often tinkered with hot rods in his garage. He spent 15 years restoring a 1953 Chevy pickup, a labor of love that was a testament to his belief that the more horsepower the better. He often would take the truck out to cruise Wellfleet’s back roads, where he loved to go fast.
Dale cherished his role as dad to his two children, Dale Smith of Harwich and April Smith Tesson of Wellfleet. They and his grandson, Hayden, were the lights of his life. April recalled that as children they would often go to work with their dad during summer breaks. He would take them for rides on loaders and dump trucks, backhoes and pavers. If they dozed off, he would wake them with the blare of a big rig’s air horn. In his later years, Dale loved playing Matchbox cars with Hayden, who could always make his Grampy laugh.
Shortly after he retired, Dale was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which he faced with quiet courage. He kept his promise not to forget the people he loved the most — recognizing them until his death.
His family expressed thanks to “all who rallied around Dale, especially Jack Longo, his caregiver, friends and family who were there when the going got tough, and Lola, his faithful pup, who never left his side and showered him with way too many kisses when we weren’t looking.”
In respect for Dale’s wishes, there will be no services.