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Clip Smith heads list of distinguished Lockport alumni

LOCKPORT – Here’s a classic from the pages of “Clipley’s Believe It or Don’t”:

Believe it or don’t: In Lockport, deceased graduates of Lockport High School were not eligible to be named to the school’s honor roll of distinguished alumni – until now.

It’s only fitting that Clip Smith, for decades a popular fixture on local TV and radio, is among the first to break that taboo, along with a World War II hero.

Smith, who finished his career as a conservative radio talk show host and Republican politician, probably would have liked that.

Smith and Dominic J. Grossi, a Marine lieutenant killed in action on Iwo Jima in 1945, head the list of inductees to Lockport’s honor roll. High school principal Frank Movalli said the induction ceremony will be held Aug. 25.

Before this year, about 75 graduates had been honored, and all were alive to see it. WLVL Radio morning host Paul Oates, who works at the Lockport station where Smith started his career, was among those lobbying the Lockport High School Foundation board of directors to change the rules to allow posthumous inductions.

Warren P. Smith Jr., to give his full name, died in a car crash in Royalton on Aug. 21, 2004, at age 63. His best-remembered job was 17 years on WKBW-TV as a sports anchor and sometime weatherman, although after leaving TV in 1988 he worked on WGR Radio as a sports talk host and on WBEN Radio as a topical talker.

On TV, Clip’s shtick always featured eye-rolling puns under the title of “Clipley’s Believe It or Don’t,” which was inevitably followed by Smith giggling at his own gags while the news anchor attempted to maintain decorum. Another running joke was Clip, who weighed about 330 pounds in his prime, playing the tuba, which he actually did well enough to have earned a music scholarship to the University at Buffalo.

“I know if Clip were here, he’d be very honored to get this award. He was always very proud of Lockport High School,” his widow, Nancy Smith, said Friday. “His parents were both teachers in the Lockport school system, and his father was a coach.”

He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Lockport twice, served a term as an alderman and was a member of the Lockport Board of Education at the time of his death.

Grossi, who graduated from Lockport High in 1938, won the Navy Cross posthumously after his death on Iwo Jima. Grossi Memorial Park in Lockport is named after him.

Other inductees include two Lockport business owners, Timothy C. Mulvey of Mulvey Construction and Mark W. Glynn of Glynn Geotechnical Engineering; former teacher and Olcott redevelopment activist Rosemary Sansone; Darlene Williamson, founder of the Stroke Comeback Center in Vienna, Va.; and Brenda and Mark Zimmerman, founders of the Challenger Sports League for handicapped children.