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.
Raymond and Jason, my deepest sympathy goes out for you. Ken was a great man, father and husband. Hold on to the good memories he left for you. You are in my prayers.
Could not be a more fitting tribute to a more deserving man. He definitely impacted my life while growing up with Jake, whether he realized it or not. God bless the entire Smith family and God’s speed and peace be with you during this trying time.
Was so sorry to hear this. Ken was a one of a kind. So many fond memories of him. Sending prayers to all of you.
What a lover of live. I knew Ken when he was starting his Philadelphia Cheesesteak restaurant in Sherman and when he discovered his theatrical talent with the Sherman Community Players. He was enthusiastic about everything he did. Ken never slowed down.
Ken loved people. He befriended everyone he met. I thoroughly enjoyed having him as a work-week roommate sleeping on the couch in my apartment as he was learning the plastics business. He pushed himself and he pushed me to be more productive and better at anything we did.
Ken was the epitome of a family man. I heard many stories about how wonderful Shirl and his children were. He’ll be missed by the community almost as much as by his family. Rest in peace my friend.
I loved Ken for his generous, caring, sharing nature. He had a great sense of humor and was always willing to lend a hand. What a friend!!
I had the pleasure of getting to know Ken several years ago when we were both in Annie Get Your Gun at the Finley Theater. Although our paths would cross only occasionally since then, what I got from that production was a friend from then on, someone who always met me with a smile and something good to say. I’m going to miss those chance meetings. Rest in peace my friend!
I remember home teaching you guys right after I returned from my mission. Lots of memories of Ken bringing Marion a batch of Trout he would catch on Blue River during Trout season. Trout was her favorite along with the fresh Tuna Salad he made from the Gulf Tuna he would catch. We enjoyed the dinners we had and the plays we watched together. God bless and comfort each who knew him and those he loved. A very good man endowed with compassion, charity and who had a great testimony of the restoration and his Redeemer Jesus Christ and his Father in Heaven.
I am truly going to miss my favorite Uncle who would always make an effort to come see us up in Philly! He was so full of life and loved hanging out listening to all his stories about his trips, his entire family, some I’ve met, some I’ve never met but feel like I knew everyone from all the stories he told. The stories I will hold in my heart forever. He will never be forgotten!
I’m very sorry for your loss and prayers to your family. Ken had a larger than life personality that I know will be missed.
I am so very sad to hear my uncle Kenny has passed. My heart goes out to my Aunt Shrl and my cousins and their families. My first memories of him and Raymond Jason and Rachael and Holly and Aunt Shrl are from the 70s at my grandmothers house on Smith Mountain. We fished and camped and just ran around being free in the wonderful PA mountains. Gathering all of us in that tiny cottage listening to stories and enjoying each other and mom moms great meals. Mmmm that french toast with home made wild mountain black berry syrup. Also getting in trouble some times like for not digging up enough worms. I can go on forever. I also remember the time Raymond and Jason stayed at ourTrevoose home for a month or so. So glad Unc Kenny was fortunate enough to create his succcessful. buisness from scratch and pure never give up willpower. That enabled him to drive anywhere he wanted and anytime enjoying his fly fishing etc. He also visited us down here in PA. We had many great times at my sister Christa’s house in CT. He truely seemed to love my wife Susan and my mom Carol of coarse my sister and her husband Jim and Christa’s kids my niece and nephew . Zach and Sydney and their boyfriends and girlfriends. One time though he and I went fly fishing in Perkonen creek in Phila. I was new to sport he gave me some lessons a rod one fly and he slowly dissapeared down the creek fishing away. I had by that point lost my fly and was cold he wash no
Where to be found and the truck was locked and it was cold. ?. Oh well. I can go on forever always remember that big long Plymouth van from the 70s too. I regret never making it out to Texas to meet the entire family but am glad my dad got to go out there for some months before his passing. Kenny made a wonderful speech at my father Carl’s funeral stating that if it wasn’t for Carl he would never of got to play sports and much more. Unfortunately Sue and I can not make it to the services. Hopefully we can still in the future get to see the whole Texas family when this dam pandemic is terminated Love Mark and Sue Smith.
I will miss you so much Uncle Ken. As your first & oldest nephew I have always admired your candid spirit, positive “never give-up” attitude and zest for life that truly defined you throughout the years. You created so much fun at the family reunion events when we were young kids at Wissahicken Creek Park in Philly & at your sister Connie & Joe’s up in the mountains of Wellsboro, Pa. You have given me snippets of wisdom & advise over my life that I will never forget. Over the recent years though, I really enjoyed our political conversations that we’ve had as it was great fun to blow off frustrations & laugh with you about all the D follies going on because you and I were always on the exact same R page! As u know, I was really looking forward finally getting down to the Lone Star State with my wife & sons to visit with you and Aunt Shirley & Raymond & Magic and hanging with the whole rest of the Smith tribe over this past July 4th for which this Dam Pandemic did not allow! Little did I ever know or expect that that was my last opportunity to ever see you again. I am saddened on this day but made happy from your memories. Much Love Mark Parrish.
Ode to Uncle Kenny
Christa has an Uncle Kenny
We went fishing any time he was around
He took me fishing in Arkansas
He was taller than a mountain
He was greater than a saint
He was a humble as a monk
He will give you the shirt off his back
I watch him give a sandwich, which was made specifically for him, to a homeless man; and he gave away my sandwich too!
Uncle Kenny and Aunt Cheryl came to visit me while I was in the Hospital
He was a good husband, even better than I am, a good father, a good grandfather, a good uncle, and a great friend.
I miss you Uncle Kenny
Ken always had a silly grin and sang a crazy song when he picked us up from drill team practice in 9th grade. I saw in Ken what fun a father could and should be. The rule was always “the more the merrier” and there was always room to make another space at the table or a place to sit in the minivan to go to the Sherman Playhouse or the dollar movies. I remember the deep freeze dedicated to the ice cream stash, and the man who drove a bread truck who could have made saving money on Blue Bell into an olympic event…with Gold podium status every time. Love and hugs to all you Smith kids who are such a vivid part of my memories starting in elementary school. Jenny Lamance Shepherd
I have known this giant of a man for what seems like my entire life. My parents became friends with the Smith family when we lived in Texas. We spent days playing together, and swimming in their pond. Ken was loud. He laughed a lot. He loved a good party, a fish fry, a great meal, and any reason to gather.
Ken and Shirl have been driving to Utah to visit my mom for more years than I can remember. They would crash with her for weeks while Ken fished and Shirl shadowed my mom’s hectic life.
Our hearts are heavy as we grieve Ken’s death and pray for peace to find Shirl and the entire Smith family. RIP Ken