It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we share the news of our dad, John Lee Smith, Jr.’s death. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on November 24, 1943, and peacefully passed at the age of 79 on August 13, 2023, in North Carolina. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Janice Smith. Left to mourn this incredible loss are his sons, Donald Smith, and Brian Smith (Anita), grandchildren, Jeremy, Karleen and Aaron, and 4 great grandchildren. Brothers, Jim, Bill, and Tom Smith, sisters, Annette Harris, and Janet Gwaltney, and his forever “daughter”, Suzi Keenan. To say that he loved and was so very proud of his sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren would be an understatement, for his love and pride for them knew no bounds.
John spent thirty-five years working for the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority where he was well respected by his co-workers. That may have been his career, but in his spare time, one could always find him in the garden, hunting, fishing, or working on something related to one of these passions. He enjoyed these activities so very much, but even more so, he delighted in sharing the fruits of his labor and the knowledge of his endeavors with others. To visit him for just a moment and to leave empty handed was not an option in John’s world! You were going to leave with a new perspective on life, a shared experience or fascinating story, a goody bag with the latest catch or whatever was being harvested in the garden, and if you were lucky, a lesson on tying a fly!
His love for others and their well being extended way beyond his family, and oftentimes to people he didn’t even know. He and Jan worked tirelessly in their community, whether it be painting the church, driving people to their appointments, or building ramps for those in need, all without expecting a single thing in return. They absolutely loved sharing their bounties from a good hunt, a catchy day of fishing, or a fruitful harvest. There simply was no end to their generosity. He said they were only doing the Lord’s work. A man who loved God and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he simply knew no other way. This spirit of giving continued after Jan’s death right up until John’s last breath.
Such a strong spirit, John had a style all his own, and with no apologies. He loved deeply, appreciated all of God’s creations, argued to the last syllable, and rarely took no for an answer. He wanted you to do better than you thought you could, because he knew more about your potential than you did. A natural teacher and coach, he simply had a way of making you believe in yourself.
His perseverance these past few years as he continued to mourn Jan and struggle through his own declining health, was just the tip of how strong willed and determined he was to do it his way! His presence will be missed, and a lifetime of memories will be cherished by his family and friends who loved him. We love you and will miss you forever!
A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, September 1, 2023, at 1 PM, at Knotts Island United Methodist Church in Knotts Island, North Carolina. If so desired, a contribution can be made to the Knotts Island UMC Food Pantry.