For those who believe in fate, destiny, and that there are no “true” accidents, Stafford’s entry into the world was pre-ordained. Not only was he to be a native-born son of the Petoskey-Bay View area, he was to become one of its leading entrepreneurs and businessmen.
Although his parents, C. Reginald and Ethel Dean Smith of Albion, Michigan, had planned for him to be born in Harper Hospital in Detroit, Stafford interrupted those plans by arriving early while his parents were still vacationing in Rosedale at his grandparent’s cottage. Stafford, he youngest member of a quartet of Smith sons, was dubbed “Duff” by his three older brothers, a name still used today by close friends and family members.
Duff’s first experience at the Bay View Inn came during the summer of 1957. Having just finished his freshman year at Northwestern University, he signed up for classes at the Bay View Summer College. He met Dr. Heath when his Aunt Mary took him to the Inn for Sunday dinner. He returned next summer to desk clerk for Dr. Heath and continued to work summers for him through 1960.
“Fate” dealt another card to Stafford in 1960. This time it was a romantic “Queen of Hearts” named Janice Kathryn Johnson. Two very “uncommon persons” with very common surnames, met in the lobby of the Bay View Inn. Duff, swathed in toilet seats, one on each arm and one around his neck (they needed to be painted and that was the easiest way to carry them to the basement), came down the front stairs into the lobby as Janice, the new dining room hostess, was walking through the front door. She was not at all impressed by their first meeting, but before the summer was over, both knew marriage was in their future.
Actually, the romantic card was stacked in their favor. You see, Janice was not aware that by the time of their first meeting, Stafford already carried her photo in his wallet (and still does to this day). It had been sent to him by Dr. Heath who informed Stafford, his new assistant manager for the summer of 19 60, that he had hired Janice to be the dining room hostess.
Born and reared in a suburb of Flint, Michigan, Janice was a student at Alabama’s Florence State College (now the University of North Alabama). Her father had died recently, so she needed to work at a summer job to be able to continue her education. Fortunately, the Bay View Inn’s Chef, Mrs. Lois “Clip” Clippard, was a close friend of Janice’s mother, Zona Johnson.
After singing Janice’s praises to Dr. Heath and receiving permission to hire her as the Inn’s hostess, Clip’s only obstacle was to convince Jan’s mom to allow her to spend the summer away from home. Neither mother nor daughter knew at the time that Bay View would become home to them both for the rest of their lives.
It was difficult for Jan and Duff to part at the end of the summer in 1960, but she had one more year of college and as a soon-to-be married young man, he needed a permanent career. He had prepared himself for a career in Labor Relations but the country was in minor recession, and although he interviewed for several positions in that field, no satisfying offers were forthcoming.
Stafford moved in with his brother Dean and his wife Carol and went to work for a contractor who taught him to paint and wallpaper at his Aunt Helen Ewbank’s home in Albion. He would be forever grateful for that experience as he put those skills to great use while renovating the Bay View Inn.
“Fate” again brought Stafford “home” to Petoskey. Moving in with his brother Paul and wife Nancy (older brothers are great to have in strategic locations) he went to work for Herbert Reycraft, owner of the Perry Hotel as Assistant Manager. Plans for the Smiths, who would be wed on June 17, 1961, were going well. Stafford had a promising career ahead in hotel management and Janice had a teaching position in Littlefield School District in Alanson. But a “dark card” was dealt. Mr. Reycraft sold the Perry Hotel to Mr. John R. David, just four months after Stafford arrived. It was April 1961, and Stafford was out of a job.
Stafford knew that the Bay View Inn was for sale. Dr. Heath’s responsibilities at Northern Michigan University had expanded, not allowing him to return to the Inn during the summers. At the suggestion from his brother Paul, Stafford traveled to Marquette and following a handshake, returned to Petoskey with the keys and the checkbook from the Bay View Inn. Details of the purchase of the Inn would be made later in a simple, two paragraph land contract. Stafford and Janice became INNKEEPERS. They even answered reservation letters while on their honeymoon thus, cutting it short to return to their new world of hospitality. They soon discovered this fact: Innkeepers do not keep Inns. Inns keep Innkeepers.
The Bay View Inn has kept this couple for 60 years. And during those years, they have literally rebuilt the Inn from the inside out.