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23720 Farmington Rd
Farmington, MI 48336
(248) 474-5200
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William Smith Jr.


1919 - 2019 Obituary Condolences Gallery
William Smith Jr. Obituary
William Smith Jr.

Farmington Hills - William B. Smith, Jr. (Bill), father of five and grandfather of eight, passed away peacefully on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 16, 1919, Bill's family soon moved to Detroit. A whip-smart student, Bill skipped 3rd grade and went on to achieve all A's at Catholic Central High School graduating in 1936. In 2014 he was honored as the oldest living alumni and was gifted with a gold watch he proudly wore until the end of his life.

He attended Wayne State University part-time while working full time as an electrician at General Motors until war broke out and duty called. He joined the Army Air Corps, was sent to Italy and flew 23 missions as a navigator in a B-17 over Germany during World War II.

Thanks to the G.I. Bill, he attended the University of Michigan and graduated in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He embraced college life and maintained his relationship with his Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity brothers attending many Alumni events in the Detroit area well into his 90's.

After graduation, Bill went to work for Fisher Body in Hamilton, Ohio. His co-worker set him up on a blind date with his wife's younger sister, Joanne Schloss of Grand Rapids, who swept him off his feet and they married on June 18, 1949. With the arrival of his first child, Christopher, they moved to Detroit and Bill began his career at Ford Motor Company in Product Development. As their family expanded with a second child, Gretchen, they moved to Farmington Township and had three more children, Michelle, Brian and Carol.

Bill and Joanne enrolled their children at the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish school where family, church, and social life were intertwined. For decades there was always a "Smith kid" at Sorrows. Bill happily served the church as an usher helping out whenever needed which made him a familiar face well into his 90's.

Determined his kids would see many National Parks, the family hit the road in the latest model Ford station wagon with a trailer in tow to traverse the country. Eventually a new tradition began - an annual trek to Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake where he learned to sail but especially loved competing in the tennis tournament. His passion for the sport continued and he was a long-time member of the Farmington Tennis Club.

In his 50's, while still working full-time for Ford in Dearborn, his focus on education lured him "Back to School" at his beloved University of Michigan. Unlike Rodney Dangerfield, Bill was a serious student and earned his Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1976. As proud alumni, Bill and Joanne held season tickets and cheered on the Wolverines at the Big House for many decades.

Bill and Joanne were active members of the Farmington Democratic Club and he was very proud of Joanne's rise from Councilwoman to Mayor of Farmington Hills. They made many

close friends working together and supporting both local and national campaigns. After retiring from a 44 year career at Ford at age 77, Bill and Joanne traveled the world with the Nomads and U of M Alumni Club to Europe, Asia, Australia, South American and Africa.

After 59 years in Farmington Hills, Bill and Joanne moved to The Rivers Grosse Pointe to be near their daughter, Michelle. Although Joanne passed away in 2017 after 67 years of marriage, Bill still believed in living each day to the fullest. He enjoyed Tai Chi, chair yoga, bingo and, of course, ice cream socials and music concerts. Bill's day always ended in his recliner watching the world news followed by "All in with Chris Hayes." In his final days, he was pleased to know "Middle-Class Joe" had entered the 2020 race.

Bill's greatest joy was his family. A man ahead of his time, he was a "hands on" parent and always available to help with homework, fix a bike tire, play catch in the backyard or give Joanne a break and take the kids on an errand or out for ice cream. This pattern continued with the grandchildren whether it be building a fort from a cardboard box, taking his turn on the Slip n' Slide, or treating the kids to an outing at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum. He was their biggest fan at concerts, plays, dance recitals and sporting events. For a kid from the east side of Detroit who made it through the Depression, Bill felt fortunate to not only put his five kids through college but also live long enough to celebrate each grandchild earning a bachelor's degree.

Bill Smith was a good man whose zest for life, perseverance, and kindness may explain why you could often find him singing his favorite tune "On the Sunny Side of the Street."

Bill is survived by his children, Christopher Smith; Gretchen Woodward (David); Michelle Smith; Brian Smith (Camille); Carol Smith (Allan Paschke); grandchildren, Elizabeth Woodward Iles (Zack); Katherine Woodward; Christopher Peplin (Katy); Erica Peplin; Scarlett Smith (Max French); Spencer Smith; Kathryn Papoulias; William Papoulias and his dear sister, Marie Mack. He was predeceased by his parents, William and Marie Smith; brother John J. Smith; sister Ellen Freel; and many loving relatives.

His family will receive visitors at the Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home, 23720 Farmington Road, Farmington on Sunday, May 19 from 3:00 - 7:00 with Prayers and Remembrances at 6:00 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be held at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, 23815 Power Road, Farmington on Monday, May 20, at 10:30 a.m. (visitation at 10:00 a.m.).

Donations may be made to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen at cskdetroit.org or Catholic Central High School in Novi at catholiccentral.net.

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Published in Observer & Eccentric Newspapers from May 12 to May 16, 2019
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