Cleo Smith (1922 - 2016)

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  • "I always enjoyed my visits with Mr. Smith and John. I..."
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Cleo Smith, 94, of Vandalia, passed away on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, at Vandalia.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Miller Funeral Home, Vandalia, with Brother Martin Haseley and the Rev. Pete LeDuc, officiating. Burial with military rites will follow at McInturff Cemetery in Vandalia. Visitation will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday at the funeral home. Memorials: McInturff Cemetery, rural Vandalia. Online memories and condolences can be expressed at
Mr. Smith was born on June 26, 1922, in Vandalia, the son of James E. and Frances Ora (Ward) Smith. He married Donna Marie Evans on May 14, 1955, in Highland; she passed away on April 13, 1959.
He was a farmer and a U.S. Navy World War II veteran. A lifelong resident of the Hagarstown area, he was born in a log cabin on the family farm south of Hagarstown in Seminary Township.
"Always fought all through his life for the freedom & rights of the people." And never ever forgot the boys that fought for our country. Cleo always farmed, trucked, hauling milk, grain, livestock, etc., and hauled gravel on federal gravel hauls throughout Fayette County when roads were mud.
In 1954, because of the drought, he started selling cars at Paul Taylor Oldsmobile in Greenville and later at Burtschi Chevrolet and Craycroft Ford, both in Vandalia, and then at a car dealership in Pana.
He sold machinery for Dan Mollendor in Decatur and Bluff Equipment in Bluff City. He later sold construction equipment and Davis trenchers for Ed Meyer Equipment in Mt. Vernon and then Davis trenchers for Reed Process & Welding in Belleville. He worked for Southwestern Electric in Edwardsville, running the Davis trenchers that he had previously sold them.
On Oct. 14, 1940, he was struck by lightning and recovered. Three years later, in 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy and was asked what the stripe was down his side was, which was from the lightning strike. He was later injured while in the Navy, of which it took between three and four months for him to recover in the Navy hospital, of which before full recovery he worked with the doctors and nurses, helping take care of injured soldiers at Great Lakes. He did not take and receive a pension at any time.
In 1949, he attended and graduated in the top of his class from Reisch Worldwide College of Auctioneering, the largest auction college in the world, in Mason City, Iowa, of which in order to receive colonel rating, he had to take psychology and radio broadcasting among many other classes of which nothing could be written down on paper.
He was offered by the owner, Mr. Reisch of the college, a job at a brand-new state-of-the-art livestock sale barn in Colorado, but did not accept and came back home to family.
He enjoyed working draft horses, because he always said they were life out there in the field with him. He enjoyed his A.C. WC tractors he had all through his life.
He smoked for 87 years even up to the end, ever since the age of 7, and said he would not have lived this long if he hadn't – it calmed his nerves.
He loved being with his best friend, his son, John, of which he was his best friend also.
He is survived by his son, John A. Smith of Vandalia; and special friend, Linda Stewart of Vandalia.
Preceded in death by his parents; wife; and two brothers, Leo at infancy and Edward in 1935.

Funeral Home
Miller Funeral Homes - Vandalia
831 N. Fifth St.
Vandalia, IL 62471
(618) 283-3176
Funeral Home Details
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Published in The Leader-Union from Sept. 13 to Sept. 21, 2016
bullet U.S. Navy bullet World War II