From a setback, he found musical inspiration

Posted: December 01, 2013

GLENSIDE - Thanksgiving Day has passed, but don't tell that to Glenside's Ned Smith.

His gratitude toward family and friends who have helped him since he suffered a stroke in 2011 is enough to last a lifetime. And the steps to recovery have blossomed into an unlikely musical project for the extended family.

For years, Smith, 56, was in charge of scheduling the presses at the Schuylkill Printing Plant in Upper Merion, where The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News are printed.

Two years ago last month, Smith suffered a stroke. He was asleep when it began and didn't realize what was happening - he just knew he didn't feel well. As the go-to guy at the plant - the one with power to say "Stop the presses!" - he didn't call in sick.

"I jumped in the car and went to work instead of going to the hospital," Smith said. "I blew that."

Had he gone earlier for treatment, the stroke might not have taken most of the functions of his left side. He eventually had to leave the job on disability.

On Valentine's Day 2012, Smith decided to write a love poem to his wife of 32 years, Judy, who has stayed at his side.

Thus began the musical portion of his recovery.

The son of a former coworker at the printing plant is Conrad Korsch, a bassist for Rod Stewart. Smith asked him: "Conrad, do you think this could be a song?"

Korsch said sure. So Smith enlisted his niece Deirdre French, now an 18-year-old freshman at Temple University, and nephew Rafe Arlotti, now 20 and living in Phoenix, to each pen music for the poem.

 It ended up with the title "I Got Angels."

The song had turned into a tribute not only to his wife, but also to the physical therapists, nurses, and others at Abington Memorial Hospital who helped him recuperate.

That summer, when his wife's side of the family gathered for vacation in Avalon, N.J., Smith passed out T-shirts emblazoned with the words "I'm an Angel" and played the songs his niece and nephew had written.

 Their two versions of "I Got Angels" became one. And the one song begot seven more.  

"We're now working on an album," Smith said, joined by Arlotti's friend Kyle Sponaugle, a guitarist and lyricist.

Another niece, Karen McGeehan, designed the prospective CD's artwork. Two other nephews, Eric Arlotti, 16, and Scott Entriken, 15, are working on a website for it.

Smith said he cannot thank them enough.

His stroke still shows itself. "My left arm is a work in progress," he said.

He still gets shots and goes to physical therapy. But his new musical hobby - and the gratitude he feels toward all those who have helped him - gives him strength.

Judy Smith loves the tribute she got from her husband, whom she met when she was a waitress at an Avalon restaurant and he was the manager. Like her husband, she also will be filled with gratitude long past this holiday season.

"It could have been so much worse," she said. "We're lucky we have all that we have."

610-313-8109 @carolyntweets

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