Leman Franklin “Smitty” Smith was born in Henryetta, Oklahoma on September 8, 1938, the sixth of seven children. The family worked their subsistence farm raising produce, eggs and meat. They also picked cotton, beans, and other crops in the area and nearby states. Smitty was independent early, as his niece says “He left home as soon as he could change his own diaper.” Too young to join the Navy and too young to lie about it, he joined the National Guard. In 1955, at 17 years old, he did lie and enlisted in the Navy.
Smitty’s meticulous nature and aptitude for all things mechanical and structural, landed him on the flight deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard and USS Midway. His assignment in civilian terms was Aviation Machinist. He was assigned to a pilot and an airplane and was responsible for keeping the plane ready for action. While in the Navy he married his first wife Wanda and had his first child, a daughter, Terri. In 1959 Smitty was honorably discharged as ADJ-3(E-4) to Treasure Island near San Francisco, CA and was in the Navy Reserve until 1962. He went to work for FMC and later in lumber mills in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. Mill work took him to Coos Bay, Oregon. While there he divorced Wanda. He married his second wife Kay and their son Richard was born in 1967. Smitty moved to Ketchikan in late 1967 prior to the birth of his son. Kay and Richard joined him there in 1968. Smitty worked as Millwright for the Spruce Mill, Annette Lumber Mill and Louisiana Pacific Pulp Mill.
Smitty was as at home outdoors as in. At this point in life, he spent countless hours hunting and fishing the area with his son and friends. He raised a bountiful garden not so much for the food (though there was plenty) but for the fun of it. When he wasn’t working, hunting, fishing or gardening he was building or barbequing in the treehouse. Long before there was a television show about such things, Smitty built a large, deluxe treehouse complete with a deck and covered area for the custom-built stainless steel barbeque pit. Smitty was a keen observer of nature, wildlife and people and was exceptionally lucky. That and his broad knowledge and experience made him a great storyteller.
In the mid 1980’s, as the mill was waning, Smitty transitioned back to the water, as a Deckhand for Seley on the General. He then got his 100-ton Masters License and worked as First Mate on tugboats for Southcoast, another experience he shared with his son. About this time Smitty divorced his second wife and later married his wife of 23 years, Maxine Doyle. In the early 1990’s he began working for Seafac, the last leg of his long career which may also have been the most apt and rewarding. It tapped all that Smitty was and loved: nature, saltwater, new and interesting stuff to figure out and fix, and an ever changing flow of people to observe and share stories with.
Smitty lived on his own terms and passed away peacefully on February 14, 2020 at his home in Ketchikan with family at his side. He, with his prickly personality, dry humor and piercing blue eyes, will be missed terribly and remembered with love.
Smitty was preceded in death by parents, Mart and Susie Smith, siblings Fred Smith, Marvin Smith, Flossie Smith, Aletta Baker, Treman Smith and Alice Hughes (all of Oklahoma), and ex-wife, Wanda Smith (California).
He is survived by wife Maxine Doyle. Children Terri (Dennis) Escamillo (California) and Richard Smith (Ketchikan). Stepchildren Debbie Doyle (Washington), Scott (Danielle) Doyle (Ketchikan), Melinda (Vince) Crocker and Bridget (Mike Shimkus) Doyle (Washington). Grandchildren Denee’(Damas) Palmer, Steven Damas, and Whitney Lukanc (California), Katherine (Wade) Shull and Aren (Shalie) Jenkins (Ketchikan), Travis Smith (Anchorage), Dawn (Ross Sanford) Smith, Desiray (Josh) Turner, and Ryan Miles (Ketchikan), Casey Crocker and Declan Crocker (Washington). Numerous great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, sister-in-law Ruby Smith (Oklahoma), and ex-wife Kay Smith (Ketchikan).
A celebration of life will be held at 5:30 PM Friday, March 20, 2020 at the Elks in Ketchikan. In lieu of flowers please make donations to the First City Council on Cancer.