Ralph M. Smith, 86, of Canon City, passed away March 11, 2018 at his home where his family rallied to send him out in style. He was born in Florence, Colorado on November 12, 1931 to Ralph H. and Sylvesta (Stricklin) Smith. The Smith family moved to Florence from South Dakota and the Stricklin family originally came from West Virginia with stops in Illinois and Missouri. Both families worked in the Oil business.
Growing up in the depression with five brothers and sisters was tough. Ralph and his brothers did pretty much anything to help the family make ends meet. Ralph’s first job was delivering milk from the truck to the door beginning at age 6. He washed cars at the Ford Garage and was the Gimbals Store Bicycle Repairman. Ralph and his brother Jason also hauled trash with the family donkey, Blackjack, and their spring wagon. He started living and working on the Koefed Dairy farm at age 15 and was there his Junior and Senior years of high school and the summer following his graduation from Florence High School in 1950.
Ralph entered the Navy from Denver on 3 Jan 1951 and following initial training was assigned to the destroyer U.S.S. O’Brien in Japan under the command of Chester W. Nimitz Junior. Ralph joked that the ship saw lots of action off Korea due to their commander being groomed for higher rank. The ship routinely conducted close in shore bombardment and during one 30-day period fired an average of one 5” shell every five minutes. One four hour running dual between a squadron of four destroyers led by the O’Brien and shore batteries in Wonsan Harbor became known as the Battle of the Buzz Saw. Although Ralph had a promising Navy career he decided to return home and was discharged from the Navy as a Petty Officer 2nd Class on 3 Nov 1954.
Upon return to Canon City, Ralph began looking for work and he also looked up Geraldine (Jerry Lou) Schwab. He had learned much about Jerry Lou through letters a fellow sailor and friend received from her and he shared with him. It did not take long for him to propose to Jerry Lou and they were married in the First Methodist Church in Canon City on 16 Dec 1956.
Ralph worked several jobs until he found his calling as a Carpenter’s Apprentice and started the program at Pueblo Junior College. He and his brother Bernard then started Smith Brother’s Cabinetry Company in Canon City in 1956 and were very successful. The Smith Brothers introduced laminate counter tops to the area and also built the original Buckskin Joe’s stage coach and the body for the steam engine. They donated their time and energy to various church organizations and the 4H. However, the economic downturn in 1968 and lack of payments for their work caused them to close. Ralph then began his 12-year career with the Colorado Department of Corrections. Through hard work and dedication, he rose to the position of Superintendent of Construction and supervised projects throughout the state. In 1981 Ralph decided he needed a change due to the heavy travel schedule and lack of family time and moved the family to Washington State. He again worked with his brother Bernard at Baugh Construction in Seattle WA. He retired in 1995 after 12 years at Baugh Construction and he and Jerry settled in Eastern WA. to be near their daughters. They returned to Canon City in 2013. Despite all the time in Washington, they both felt Canon City was home.
Ralph and Jerry Lou were blessed with two daughters, Lorri Lynne Fisher, and Lynda Lou Poppie. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. He is survived by his daughters Lorri Fisher and Lyn Poppie, Grandchildren Dustin Hill, Savannah Hill, Britaania Poppie, and Dirk Poppie, his brother Jason (Patricia Meirhaeghe) and sister Josephine (Jerry) Nash, and numerous nieces and nephews. Most notably Charlie, Steve, and Dave Smith, and the Kevin Schwab and Sherry (Schwab) Allnut families, all who spent considerable time with Ralph during his last weeks.
He was preceded in death by Jerry on May 28, 2017, his wife of 61 years, his parents, sister Ivona Smith and brothers Bernard and Kenney Smith. A grave side service will be conducted Memorial Day Weekend at the Rosita Cemetery for both Ralph and Jerry.
Arrangements entrusted to Harwood Funeral Home. Online condolences may be left at Harwoodfunerals.com.