Remembering Wayne

Wayne Smith 1917 - 1965
Wayne Smith 1917 – 1965

On this Memorial Day I want to honor the memory of my father-in-law, Wayne Smith, who was born May 25, 1917, and who served as a Major in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps during WW II. I knew Wayne only briefly, but I liked him a lot. Someone who knew him better was Lila White, a friend in his Sunday School Class at Highland Methodist Church in Odessa, Texas. Shortly after his death, July 25, 1965, (see my earlier post on the Smith-Collins family) she wrote a lengthy tribute which we found in our recent move and from which I quote liberally here. This picture shows only a hint of Wayne’s “Million Dollar Smile,” which Lila said was mentioned more than once at his funeral service. “Wayne was easy to reach,” she wrote. “Perhaps we lost him because he carried too many burdens for others. He had so many God-given abilities and insights that it was easy to enlist his aid and he was never stingy with any resource at his command.” A woman who worked at his bank had told Lila, “I don’t know him very well, but I have a feeling that if I needed help or advice, I could tell Mr. Smith my problem and he would do all he could to help me.”

Smith Family gravesite, Odessa. Wayne's casket was moved from Dallas to Odessa in August, 2005
Smith Family gravesite, Odessa. Wayne’s casket was moved from Dallas to Odessa in August 2005, to join the resting place of his wife, Marie, who died in 2001.

“Wayne was a banker. In the course of each day he handled large sums, but he did not consider it beneath his abilities to be treasurer of our church’s Commission on Missions where the average balance ranges between $20 and $25. He was deeply concerned about investing mission funds so they would pay a dividend in changed lives and opportunities for those less privileged than himself. More than once he passed up opportunities to make more money. Wayne considered that health and happiness, time for his family and his church, and the opportunity to serve his friends were blessings of far greater value than the wealth one might accumulate.”

“At the American Bank of Commerce I have asked financial advice of Wayne when I needed it. But more often I have gone to him with difficult personal or church-related problems. His sense of perspective, his good judgment and fairness cleared my vision and helped me to decide what would be best in a given situation. I will miss him more than I can tell you.”

“You could count on Wayne! He took his job as President of the Builders Class as seriously as he took his position at the bank. He showed how important he considered it by always being present to preside, or he made sure that a capable person was there to take his place. I honestly think he felt as highly honored when elected to that office as he did when he was promoted by the bank.”

“He was not afraid to take a stand. Once as we discussed the Commission on Social Concerns, I said that the work was hard because so many of its programs are controversial. He said, ‘Yes, but they shouldn’t be. Things are either black or white to me; no muddy gray in between. If you are a Christian you are for the right, and if you are not for the right, you are not really a Christian.’ Not many people can see with such clarity. Wayne placed great importance on helping establish El Divino Salvador [a Methodist church in Odessa that survives to this day]. ”

“Wayne crowded a full, rich life into his 48 years. Marie and Steve and Karen have a heritage that is so rich and meaningful that I don’t doubt that they will be able to continue on the courses they have set for themselves with Wayne’s guidance. And with God’s help, they, too, can live by the principles that he practiced every day to make good lives for themselves and for others, as he always did.” Lila White concluded her tribute with this poem by Dixie Lee, titled When You Count:

Count your garden by the flowers,

Never by the leaves that fall.

County your days by golden hours,

Don’t remember clouds at all.

Count your nights by stars, not shadows,

Count your life by smiles, not tears,

And with joy on every birthday,

Count your age by friends, not years.

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