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Jamboree founder Mark Smith, standing with Chrysler Group employee Michele Callender, died June 9. He was 87 years old. Photo: Courtesy of Chrysler

Editor’s Note: Chrysler recently shared this story remembering the life of Jamboree founder Mark Smith, which we in turn wanted to share with our readers to pay homage to the passing of this off-road icon.

The passing of Mark Smith marks the end of an era in four-wheeling and the beginning of a lasting legacy.

Smith, 87, was a true friend of Jeep, having founded the Jamboree movement that is to Jeep owners what revival meetings are to the faithful.

The off-roading icon died Monday in Georgetown, Calif., a tiny hamlet in Gold Rush territory, appropriately nestled near the head of the Rubicon Trail.

It is there, along a 12-mile pathway originally forged by Native Americans, where Smith made his name.

Smith used the idyllic setting west of Lake Tahoe to champion the sport of four-wheeling. In the process, he inspired us to persevere.

Chrysler Group employee and Jamboree veteran Michele Callender recalls how the ex-Marine, with his rough-hewn charm, was part counselor, part cheerleader. Whether confronted by fallen trees or forbidding bluffs, he would say: “Go for it. What are you afraid of?”

As a result, he introduced countless outdoor enthusiasts to personal triumph.

But perhaps Smith’s greatest triumph is that he instilled in off-roaders the need to remain humble as they sought fulfillment. An early advocate of conservation, he preached the leave-it-as-you-found-it philosophy echoed by organizations such as Tread Lightly.

During a trail-side interview with the Calgary Herald in 2006, Smith said: “People carry litter bags here. There’s absolutely no littering. We changed the image from the old beer and hot dog crowd to responsible, family-oriented, environmentally conscientious four-wheeling.”

Thank you, Mark. Rest in peace.

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