It’s ironic how God creates a man so full of words and wisdom and then we’re limited with only 26 letters to describe 71 years overflowing with life.
Ten years ago, almost to the day, I met Ken Smith for the first time. I’d recently began dating his sixth of eight children, and it had been arranged for us to meet and travel together to attend a high school football game. I was determined to make a good impression, so I invested hours in preparation, remembering everything except fuel. That little orange warning light glowed brightly as I commuted to Arlington, picked up Ken, and drove us to dinner. “I’ll wait …” I thought.
Today, those same words are packed with regret, remorse, and grief because the time we have with him is up. As a family, we’re left with wisdom for the ages, memories that will never be forgotten, and a legacy that will inevitably endure.
As Ken pushed my empty-tanked SUV across an overpass covering highway 360, I didn’t realize that our experience would be the premise of some of the boldest lessons he taught me: priorities, practicality, and purpose.
Clearly mine were askew for my introduction to who would eventually become my father-in-law. In watching him the decade thereafter, it became quite clear that Ken’s priorities demonstrated the “good stuff.” You’ve heard and likely promised, “Till death do us part.” We’d be much amiss if we didn’t memorialize the love he had for his beautiful bride. From old, saved love letters penned to her promising more eye contact to pouring out his devotion for her even as her worldly memory failed, he loved her fiercely. What didn’t he do fiercely? He loved (everyone he met, unless, of course, you were a blue state). He gave (to everyone in need, as long as they were concurrently trying to help themself). He sacrificed (to make sure everyone he encountered was left better than he found them-no exception).
Wedges to football games, dresses to camping, and 99 throw pillows throughout my house. Ken was not bashful to call anyone out for being insensible. Rather than all the bells and whistles we so often allow to distort our views, Ken appreciated the wonderful beauty of simplicity and the God-given luxuries in the world- the joy of a newborn baby, the glory of a Lake Texoma sunset, and the magical way that a few caught fish reels in an entire family.
My failed ambition to impress that first night was embarrassing, at best. Ken teased me within reason, but like with every other experience anyone has ever shared with him, he used it as a teachable moment. Oh, if we could collectively bottle these all up and sell them! He had an uncanny ability to find or create purpose in everything. I’d be willing to gamble that he’d deem parenting as his ultimate purpose. He was all-in, so much so, that his legacy endures in his eight most precious possessions – his children.
To his firstborn, he gave his empathetic spirit. Seldom will you find someone who truly seeks to help everyone around without questioning the motives or hesitating because of risks. Instead, Raymond seems to proverbially walk in someone else’s shoes rather than cast judgment.
In Jason, we see Ken’s relentless devotion to family. If you know Jason, you know his family. His time, energy, and pride are all bundled up and invested into his wife and kids. Sound familiar?
Rachael moves with confidence and poise in everything she does. She doesn’t fret over what anyone else thinks but defends her cause passionately. She lives with intention. Apples doesn’t fall far, huh?
Balance is hard to come by. In Holly, is a rare gift that was evident in Ken. He was nurturing, loving, and kind, but he also didn’t cut any slack and was quick to give a swift kick back to the straight and narrow should anyone try to stray. Holly has the biggest heart, but I reckon we better not cross her.
There is not a more easy-going person in all the world than Josh. Like Ken, he can find good in just about anything and appreciates the value of simplicity.
I see Ken in Jake every single day. His consistent pursuit of doing good by others. He wants to be better today than he was yesterday, and he lives the heck out of every single moment – seizing every possible opportunity to do, see, and be.
We all need someone who can shoot us straight, someone who doesn’t shy away from truth. Nate got that trait, coupled with his ability to make everyone laugh at just the perfect times.
Like Ken, Nick is innovative. He’s always looking for the next idea to capitalize on. He doesn’t shy away from taking a risk because he doesn’t fear the investment of hard work.
It is impossible to capture the impact and influence that Ken had on this world- words and time are just too limited. We can rest confidently, however, that his legacy will inevitably live on with the lasting gifts he’s instilled in his children, the generations thereafter, and all who had the privilege of knowing him. Psalm 127:4
You see, little did I know when he put gas in my car ten years ago that Ken would be filling my tank for years to come.
Kenneth Joseph Smith is preceded in death by his loving parents, Joseph and Sophie Smith, and his siblings Carl Smith, Connie Smith-Mattis, and Raymond Smith.
Survivors include his wife, Shirley Ann Smith and his children: Raymond and Magic Smith of Melissa, Jason and Shelly Smith of Bells, Holly Carraway of Whitewright, Rachael Smith of Sherman, Josh Smith of Sherman, Jake and Payton Smith of Sherman, Nathan and Krystal Smith of Denison, and Nick and Afton Smith of Whitewright as well as 23 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
Celebration of life will be held Saturday October 9, 2021, Visitation 12:00PM to 1:00 PM with services 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM at Harvest Time Assembly of God Church 222 South Heritage Parkway Sherman, Texas 75092. Private family gathering at Cherry Mound Cemetery.