NORTH JACKSON - Earla Willard Smith, 104, passed away peacefully Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, at his home.
He was born May 19, 1908, in North Jackson, the son of Will Logan and Mary Elva Guiste Smith.
He was the fourth born of eight children and the oldest living child. He's also the oldest life-long living resident of North Jackson.
Earla started working on the family farm beginning at the age of 5, helping his family make their living selling vegetables at the local farmers market. When he was 8, he was playing with dynamite blasting caps and blinded himself in his right eye (but that never slowed him down and he could still "line up" a fence post). He drove a horse-drawn school bus (called a "Kid Hack") when he was only a sophomore in high school. While in school, Earla won many academic awards and graduated from Jackson High School in 1927. He still quoted poetry (Longfellow being his favorite) and could recite the whole Gettysburg Address from memory and did so on his 100th birthday.
Earla married Sadie Adell Archer on Aug. 22, 1931, and was married to her for 67 years, until her passing in 1999. In 1932, Earla and Sadie had a son, Elmer Willard Smith. Earla ran "The Farm" in North Jackson, which operated as a diary farm and sold the milk to Islay's until 1952. Today, "The Farm" raises beef cattle and horses and serves as the hub of family activities.
He worked on the ground floor of the space industry when he was employed at RMI in Niles. He was part of the processing of titanium for both the second satellite and the "Moon Buggy." He retired from RMI in 1973 after 24 years of service. He was very patriotic and extremely proud to be an American.
Earla traveled to all but three provinces of Canada. He vacationed in Hawaii and had been to every state except Alaska. He flew to Japan to visit two of his great-grandchildren stationed there in the Navy. (When he was born, he was never issued a birth certificate, so he had funny stories to tell about how he got his passport to go to Japan.)
A dozen of his grandchildren have been involved in 4-H (horses and rabbits), claiming all the 4-H kids and their families were his grandchildren, too! He sponsored horse shows and provided the ribbons and medals for various shows throughout the years. Earla invited North Jackson Corral Crue to base their 4-H group on his 100-acre farm to ride and train their horses, have meetings, use the swimming pool and even allowed them to cut down trees to build a riding arena.
He spent every day of the Canfield Fair with the 4-H group. Being all about kids, he cheered on all of the kids during their events. He loved to tell the story of how in 1912 he traveled to the Canfield Fair for the first time in a horse drawn surrey (buggy) with the fringe on top. He lived his life with the most wonderful memories and some of the greatest stories. In 2003, he was awarded the Canfield Fair's 4-H "Most Senior Saddle Horse Honorary Member," and in 2005 he was awarded the Ohio State Extension Offices' "Friend of 4-H."
Earla wintered in Florida with one of his granddaughters and participated in the Mardi Gras parades the last several years he was there, gaining quite a collection of beads. Then in the summers, he would come home to North Jackson and either ride his golf cart or hay wagon along the 4-H horses and toss out beads during the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades, becoming known as the "bead guy." In 2008, he was grand marshal of the North Jackson Fourth of July parade, and in August he even got to throw out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indians game. His family threw him two wonderful parties for his 100th birthday, one in Pensacola, Fla., and the other in North Jackson. The theme for both parties was Mardi Gras.
Earla always said the secret to his long life was the love of a good wife and family, eat lots of salt and be happy.
He will be dearly missed by his six grandchildren, Sandy (Dan) Hoop of Freeport, Fred (Carol) Smith of Berlin Center, Adell (Roger) Clouse of North Jackson, Elmer (Cheryl) Smith Jr. of North Jackson, Jean Marie (Johnny) Ramsey of Pensacola, Fla., William Alan Smith and his partner Shelley Baumgartner of Gustavus; a brother, Harry Daryl Smith of Mineral Ridge; 24 great-grandchildren; 29 great-great-grandchildren; all of their spouses; and hundreds of nieces, nephews and everyone's life he touched.
Earla was preceded in death by his loving wife; his son, Elmer W. Smith Sr.; and six brothers and sisters, Thelma Graham, Harold Smith, Lauren Smith, Sylva Hallos, Mona Smith and Velda Smith.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Lane Family Funeral Home, Austintown Chapel.
Friends will be received from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the funeral home and again from 10 a.m. until the time of service Saturday. Interment will be in North Jackson Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the donor's choice of Mahoning County 4-H, Hospice or for pancreatic cancer research.
Arrangements were handled by Lane Family Funeral Homes, Austintown Chapel.
Family and friends can send condolences to either www.lanefuneralhomes.com or Earla's Facebook page at @EarlaSmith1908.