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Obituary: Bert Smiley

Bert Smiley and Nina Feldman-Smiley

Mohonk Mountain House  announces the passing of Albert K. Smiley III after a year-long battle with leukemia. He was 74.

As the fourth-generation leader of the resort, Bert, as he was affectionately known, was appointed to his leadership roles in 1990 until his retirement in June 2018. Following his retirement, he continued to serve Mohonk Mountain House as a member of the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors and as corporate Treasurer.

Bert leaves behind a legacy. Under his direction, Mohonk Mountain House experienced a continued period of growth and success as a destination resort. Some of his achievements include the opening of the Spa in 2005, which ushered the resort into a new era of wellness travel; the construction of the Mohonk Ice Skating Pavilion in 2001, further bolstering Mohonk’s reputation as a winter destination; the development of Grove Lodge in 2016, the resort’s first new accommodation in more than 100 years; and the launching of a resort-wide Service Initiative in 2003, which resulted in the Mountain House’s recognition as a Star of the Industry for outstanding guest service.

Bert’s devotion to Mohonk’s mission of historic preservation led the entire Smiley family to be named “Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year” by Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide during the annual 2017 Awards of Excellence. Bert was instrumental in the 2011 transfer of 874 acres of Mohonk Mountain House land to the Open Space Institute, ensuring this historic and beautiful foothills property would be preserved for future generations. In 1994, Bert and his father Keith Smiley were on hand to represent the Smiley family when they were recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for a legacy of environmental stewardship.

Bert was born in 1944 and grew up on the resort property, interacting with many of the resort’s staff members. At age 15, he began attending Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, returning to Mohonk for summer jobs. He worked as a laboratory technician at NYU’s chemical engineering school, and received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Syracuse University, then returned to NYU as a research associate at the Courant Institute for Advanced Mathematics.

In 1973, he met his future wife, Nina Feldman, a graduating senior studying psychology at Vassar College, on a blind date. They married in 1974 and both were accepted to Princeton University for graduate study, where he received a Ph.D. in economics with a focus on industrial organization. He then worked for the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division as the Director of Research, focusing on public policy analysis during a 10-year stint in Washington, D.C. In 1990, Bert and Nina moved to Mohonk Mountain.

Becoming president and CEO of the Mountain House was a significant career shift for Bert, but he feared that the resort might pass out of the family’s hands if he did not step in to provide continuity of family leadership. Nina became the director of marketing, and with Bert developed a leadership team that achieved consistently strong results and a solid foundation for future success. Additionally, Bert served as the chairperson of the American Hospitality and Lodging Association Resort Committee in 2015, and was a member of the board of directors of M&T Bank and the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association. He was a fellow of the Culinary Institute of America, a member of the board of directors of the Mohonk Preserve, and served on the Advisory Board of Mohonk Consultations. Bert and Nina were named the SUNY New Paltz Business People of the Year in 2007.

A humble and unassuming presence with a brilliant mind and a dry wit, Bert worked tirelessly over decades to preserve the Mountain House and his family’s legacy. He believed that the strength of the business lay in its community of staff. He considered them his extended Mohonk family.  He is survived by his wife, Nina Feldman Smiley, Ph.D.; his sister Sandra Smiley; three nephews, Noah, Marc, and Eric Gullickson; and two nieces, Katie and Lily Feldman; and many other loving family members and friends.

Funeral services will be held privately.

The Smiley Family will host an Open House at Mohonk Mountain House to celebrate the life of Bert Smiley from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28 in the Parlor.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Bert’s name may be directed to either Mohonk Preserve or Mohonk Consultations.

Copeland Funeral Home is assisting the family with the arrangements. Online condolences may be left for the family of Bert by visiting www.copelandfhnp.com.

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