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Richard D. "Smitty" Smith Sr.


1937 - 2020
Richard D. "Smitty" Smith Sr. Obituary
Our beloved father, grandfather and husband, Richard D. "Smitty" Smith Sr., passed on Jan. 29, 2020, while having a heart procedure done in Anchorage.
Smitty was born on April 20, 1937, in the little town of Bassett in the largest state at the time, Texas. As a young man he joined the United States Air Force and soon was on his way to the Territory of Alaska to Ladd Airfield in Fairbanks.
Smitty met the love of his life, Ethel Evans, a beautiful young lady from Rampart Alaska, in an encounter at Sam's Bakery, where they both worked. Whenever Ethel's sister, Lou, shared the story, she would end with a laugh and add "that was when Smitty liked what he saw" and it was love at first sight.
Smitty not only fell in love with Ethel, but he also fell in love with Alaska, which soon became the 49th state and now superseded his birthplace, Texas, as the largest state in the Union. Adopting Ethel's Athabascan culture, he became a skilled Yukon River fisherman, hunter and gatherer. At one time, they had a Yukon River commercial fishing license, selling the fish that was not cut for their smoke house, to Foodland, a local grocery store.
In summertime, Smitty and Ethel would be seen taking road trips in their camper throughout Alaska from Manley Hot Springs to Homer. At times, nephews would meet them in Homer and take them by boat to Nanwalek (formerly English Bay).
He especially enjoyed taking Ethel berry picking, hooligan fishing and visiting relatives all over Alaska and Texas, where they had a second home to come to during some winters. During those times he even raised a few cattle. Smitty was known for being one of the fastest berry pickers and he and Ethel's jams were much sought after at the annual holiday bazaars.
Smitty had a heart for giving and caring for others. He was known for his bountiful garden and everyone was welcomed to take what they wanted. He and Ethel would bring clothing and food to those in need. He cherished his titles as Dad, Papa and Uncle. Smitty never met a stranger. As a little boy, his son once said, "Dad's favorite hobby is talking."
Anyone he met discovered quickly Smitty loved talking and sharing stories. Even in the ICU and as weak as he was, he had a story to tell. He reassured the family that if he didn't make it through the surgery, not to worry, he would be in heaven picking berries. We all know he also would be telling stories.
Early in his work history, Smitty was employed by Sourdough Moving and Storage and later Fairbanks Fuel. He met so many people through his work it seemed he knew everyone in town. Later he became a member of Teamsters Union Local 959 and went to work up north on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. He worked through the union until his retirement.
Smitty was predeceased by parents, Allie Cecil (Gauntt) and William Edward Smith; siblings and their spouses, Nell and Albert Figueroa, Faye and Pete Tolison, James and Juanita Smith, Bill and Barbara, Joe and Edwyna Smith, Jake and Bernice Smith, Bobby Smith; sister-in-law, Patsy Smith; as well as brother/sister-in-laws and spouses, Minnie Hart, Tom and Liz Evans, Lou and Jim Keihl, Ann and Bill Taylor, Roy Evans, Jesse Evans, Ella and Frank Guy, and Elaine and Ron Long.
Smitty is survived by his wife, Ethel Smith; brother, Alton Smith; sister-in-law, Paula Evans; children and spouses, Cyndi Nation, Karen and Dan Smith, and Rick and Tracy Charles-Smith; grandchildren and spouses, Renee Perry, Melanie Osberg, CeCelia Nation and Kodi Michael, Crystal Smith, Richard and Amy Smith, Ridge Smith, and Rory Smith; great-grandchildren, Julian, Christopher and Ethan Perry, Nathanael and Isaiah Sherwood, Scarrlett and Parker Nation, Charlee Jo and Camilla Shea Smith and Anastasia Michael; and great-great-grandson, William Michael James Perry. Also surviving are numerous nieces and nephews whom Smitty loved dearly and two dear friends, Father Scott Fisher and longtime neighbor, Andy Stoffa.
Visitation, the service, and potlatch will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall, 111 Clay St. Visitation will be 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., the service at noon, burial will follow at Birch Hill, Native section and the potlatch at 5:30 p.m.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Feb. 4, 2020
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