William C. "Smitty" Smith passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday, the 6th of July 2011, in Houston. Smitty was born the 25th of February 1921, in Yorktown, Texas, to William Clarence and Viola Galle Smith. He graduated from The University of Texas with a BBA, where he was a charter member of the Silver Spurs and a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
While attending UT, Smitty met and married the love of his life, Lenora Guseman. During this time, he also enlisted as an apprentice seaman in Class V-7 United States Naval Service. Upon graduating from UT in 1943, Smitty reported for active duty and was subsequently assigned to an Amphibious Training Base, where he was promoted to Commander, Landing Craft, Sixth Amphibious Force.
In 1944, Smitty was shipped to England to report to LCT 612, Flotilla 12 as Officer-in-Charge. On D-Day, his LCT was among the first to land on Omaha Beach in Normandy, carrying a load of demolition engineers, explosives and one tank. His crew was charged with destroying German gun placements on shore. Smitty's ship, nicknamed "The Texas Longhorns," suffered three direct hits from German artillery fire. During battle, Smitty's foot was severely injured, to the point that it was recommended for amputation. However, after receiving medical care, Smitty returned to his ship and his crew, with his foot in a cast and remained on board until ordered to abandon ship. For his brave service, Smitty received a citation for meritorious performance above and beyond the call of duty and was appointed rank of Lieutenant. He was later awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries.
In 1946, upon being released from the U.S. Navy, Smitty and Lenora moved to Yorktown, Texas, to join his father at the Chevrolet and Buick dealership, which he established in 1917. After his father passed away in 1947, Smitty became a dealer at the age of 26. He and his family moved to Houston in 1965, where he bought into Ivy Russell Ford, which is known today as Russell & Smith. Smitty was an active dealer for more than 60 years. Later, the family expanded into the Smith Auto Group, which eventually became one of the co-founding dealer groups of the public company, Group 1 Automotive.
Smitty was a member of the Serra Club of Houston and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. He also served on the boards of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association and the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. In 1989, Smitty received national recognition as a Time Quality Dealer.
Smitty will be remembered for his passion of the automotive industry, his love of family, especially for his devoted wife Lenora, and his strong Longhorn pride. He was a brave military man, a respected businessman, an adored father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and a beloved friend, who will be missed by many.
He is preceded in death by his parents; his brother, the late Lloyd Newton Smith; and by his grandson, the late Michael Brooks Smith.
Smitty is survived by his wife of 66 years, Lenora Guseman Smith; and their five children: Bill Smith and wife Kathy; Len Smith; Charles Smith and wife Debbi; Michael Smith and wife Lynn, all of Houston; and Ursula Smith Graham and husband Bill, of Dallas. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren: Shannon Smith Strehli and husband Scott; Michelene Graham Galbraith and husband Chase; Courtney Smith Lippincott and husband Tom; Chase Smith and wife Christi; Christiana Smith Stojanik and husband David; Sheridan Smith Plumb and husband Robert; Will and Tanny Graham; and Katie, Kimberly, Jordan, and Stephen Smith. Smitty's legacy continues to live on in these family members, as well as in his 15 great grandchildren.
The family desires to express their heartfelt gratitude to his special caregivers, Joe Muldong, Joy Clemente, Ivan DeMesa, Ressy Abutin and Patrica Arias, who all were such loving and supportive individuals.
Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from five o'clock in the afternoon until half-past seven o'clock in the evening on Friday, the 8th of July, in the Grand Foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. Following the visitation, at half-past seven o'clock, a recitation of the Holy Rosary is to be prayed in the adjacent Jasek Chapel.
A Mass of Christian Burial is to be offered at ten o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the 9th of July, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 1801 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Msgr. Frank H. Rossi, Pastor, and the Rev. Msgr. Dan Scheel, Pastor of St. Jerome Catholic Church, are to concelebrate.
Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception in the adjacent Parish Life Center. Afterwards, the family is to gather for a private Rite of Committal at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery.
Serving as casket bearers and honorary pallbearers during the services are Smitty's 12 grandchildren.
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family respectfully suggests memorial contributions be directed to the W.C. & Lenora Smith Endowed Scholarship at UT Austin (kindly ensure checks for this donation are payable to the University of Texas at Austin to The Longhorn Foundation, P.O. Box 7399, Austin, TX, 78713, Attn: Rob Heil); or to the Houston Automobile Dealers Association Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 16550, Sugar Land, TX, 77496-6550; or to St. Michael Catholic School, 1801 Sage Rd., Houston, TX, 77056-3598.
Published in Houston Chronicle from July 7 to July 9, 2011