CANTERBURY – Luke J. Smith, 79, passed away suddenly on January 22, 2013.
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Luke was born on April 30, 1933, in West Warwick, R.I., the son of the late Luke J. Smith Sr. and Lucienne Smith.
Not ready for college at 17, Luke joined the U.S. Navy to proudly serve his country and to see the world. Luke's enlistment in the Navy was during the Korean conflict, 1951-1955, and he served on the U.S.S. Midway and U.S.S. Saipan aircraft carriers out of Virginia. One highlight of Luke's naval career was serving in a helicopter rescue unit, where he rescued a Marine pilot and crew from a takeoff crash, hoisting the men from the ocean to safety as their aircraft sank. He was also trained as a Naval Aviation Electronics Specialist.
After serving in the Navy, Luke went on to work on submarines at the Underwater Sound Lab in New London, Conn., as a sonar specialist, then worked for many years with the Federal Aviation Administration, from which he retired in 1988. Luke then worked for the State of New Hampshire Division of Aeronautics as the only certified Aeronautics Technician in the State of New Hampshire. Luke was then able to pursue his entrepreneurial interests, including real estate development, historical preservation and restoration of barns and railroad stations, and building, owning and operating a gas station and convenience store in Canterbury. Luke earned his BA in Business Administration from Franklin Pierce College in his 40s in 1978 and also held his real estate license. His hobbies and interests, too numerous to name, included restoration of antique trunks and classic automobiles, collecting railroad memorabilia and Native American art. He was an avid reader of history books, particularly those about the American West, and loved listening to public radio and watching the Patriots play.
Luke married his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Elaine Johnson Smith, on June 13, 1953; they would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year. Luke's career path carried his wife and family all over the country over the years, from Rhode Island to Virginia to New Jersey to Oklahoma, and then finally settling in New Hampshire in 1973.
Luke leaves his beloved and devoted wife of 59 years, Elaine Johnson Smith of Canterbury, daughter Susan Decato and husband Richard of Canterbury, daughter Kathleen Gifford and husband Stephen of Bethlehem, daughter Kristen Colburn and husband George of Concord, and daughter Elizabeth Puckett and husband Steven of Canterbury. He was predeceased by his daughter Carolyn Smith, who was lovingly cared for by Luke and Elaine for 26 years before she died in 2010.
Luke also leaves his sister, Jacqueline Smith of Rhode Island, his brother, Dr. Raoul Smith of Massachusetts and his sister-and-brother-in-law, Robert and Stella Johnson of Rhode Island. He was predeceased by his brother, Dr. Russell Smith and his sister, Carol Smith Grenier. He also leaves eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and four step-grandchildren, all of whom were blessed to have him in their lives, as well as nieces and nephews, cousins, friends and those he worked with over the years.
Luke will be remembered as someone who quietly lent a helping hand to many, a proud union man who believed passionately in building and renovating affordable housing. He was a kind, gentle man and a visionary undaunted by any challenge.
Services will be held on Friday, February 1, at 1:30 p.m. in the chapel of the N.H. State Veterans Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Highway in Boscawen, followed by a celebration of life gathering for family and friends in Canterbury. A private ceremony for immediate family will be held on April 30, which would have been Luke's 80th birthday.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Luke's memory can be made to the
Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium, Boscawen, is assisting the family with arrangements. To view an online memorial or leave a message of condolence, please go to phaneuf.net.
Published in The Concord Monitor from Jan. 27 to Jan. 28, 2013