Vernon Allen Smith
April 29, 1954 –
May 1, 2016
On May 1, 2016, we lost "Vern" as he was affectionately known to all in the Houston legal community and patrons of the famous Griff's Shenanigans. He peacefully left this life and joined our Lord in Heaven on May 1, 2016 in Houston, TX, at the age of 62. Vern never met a stranger, especially the love of his life, Debra Jo Catlett. Vern was known and admired for his personal strength and for one of the most positive attitudes you will ever experience of those concerned about the human condition. We could only hope for people like Vernon Smith in our life, who overcame life's obstacles and are an exemplar to us all. Vern, you will be greatly missed, but your kindness and gracious nature will be remembered forever!
Vern was born on Misawa Air Force Base in Japan on April 29, 1954, to his mother, Hiroko ("Mamasan"). Vernon moved to his first American home in Winchester, Kentucky in 1963, where he met and was mentored by his grandfather for whom he was named. He moved to Hammond, Indiana, during his high school years but returned to Winchester for his senior year, where he graduated in 1972. He early enrolled in the US Army immediately after graduation, but because he not 18, a recruiter named Norman Elliott visited his home to get his Mamasan's consent. The recruiter fell in love with his Mamasan, and Norman Elliott became Vernon's "Papasan" in 1973.
Vernon was the squad commander of a special US Army long-range reconnaissance patrol ("LLRP") before and after the cease fire of the Vietnam War. His unit secretly parachuted into and worked only in Laos with the objective of search and rescue for US prisoners of war ("POWs"). He took "point" almost every day and deeply cared for his men and his mission. Vernon received commendations and was honorably discharged in 1975. Vern never forgot his Army skills and was able to hit a bull's eye at 100 yards with an open-sighted AR15 only last year. Vernon was so proud to serve his country as a Japanese-American, and we are so honored that he did! Sine Pari!
Vern went to Florida State University where he received a degree in Criminology in 1979, and he even worked on the infamous Ted Bundy murder case while studying at FSU. Vernon was a proud member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. When pledging, Vern was given the dubious task of obtaining Bobby Bowden's signature, which of course he successfully did with his usual wit and charm. In 1998. Vern met the love of his life in Houston, attorney Debra Jo Catlett, and they became life mates and partners until his death. Vern not only became an integral part of Deb and her twin Donna's life and legal and accounting business, but also the stewardship of Griff's. He became Griff's "Trivia Meister" in 2005 and he did over 550 Trivia Thursdays until his last trivia night on April 28th, 2016. He was known to research dozens of books and almanacs on world events and sports trivia every week to create such original questions that stumped his fans.
Vernon was a warrior who not only survived but never complained about life's tough times. It was almost impossible to get him to say a bad thing about anyone. Vernon, we love you and will never forget you! He is survived by his mother, Hiroko Elliott; stepfather, Norman Elliott; sister, Chandra Iwsaki and his life partner, Debra Jo Catlett. We welcome you to a public visitation at 2:30 on Saturday, May 7, 2016, with a memorial service following at 3 pm at Bradshaw Carter Funeral home, 1734 West Alabama, Houston, TX 77098. A celebration of life will follow at Griff's immediately after the service. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to M.D. Anderson, Dori's Darlings Cat Rescue, the Disabled Veterans of America and the USO, or a charity of your choice
Published by Houston Chronicle on May 5, 2016.