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1921 Walter "Walt" 2023

Walter "Walt" W. Smith

October 31, 1921 — March 19, 2023

Walter W. “Walt” Smith

Walter W. Smith was born at home in Schenectady NY, the evening of Halloween in 1921. He left this earth on March 19, 2023.

He and his parents moved to California in 1923. It took six weeks by car, following the Oregon Trail. The trip ended in Compton California.

As a young adult Walt enjoyed dancing to the big bands around southern California like Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, and Tommy Dorsey. In 1938 while attending one of these dances a friend of his introduced him to his future wife, Madelyn. After dating for a few years, Walt and Madelyn married in January 1942 shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Walt joined the Navy as a machinist. He was assigned to the USS Prometheus, an AR3 fleet repair ship. He worked on repairing PT boats, submarines, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers in the South Pacific. While sailing back to the states, the atom bomb was dropped and the day the USS Prometheus went under the San Francisco Bay Bridge, it was August 14th, 1945. The war was over.

Walt joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1949. Spending most of his career as a traffic investigator, Walt retired from the LAPD as a Detective Sergeant in 1972 and moved to Oregon. After building a home in the Gold Hill area, Walt worked as a Jackson County Sheriff and drove school bus part time for the Rogue River School District.

Walt and Madelyn had four children that kept them very busy. There was little that they wouldn’t do for their kids. They spent many years involved in auto racing, scouting, camping, traveling and high school music and sports. Walt even tried sky diving with his daughter Karen.

He was involved in “open wheel and open cockpit” automobile racing for 30 years, sometimes as a driver, sometimes as a car owner. He worked as a mechanic at the Indianapolis 500 for the late great Mickey Thompson in the 1960’s.

Walt was a member of the Pacemakers, a local adult choir for almost 40 years. Over the years the group entertained at hundreds of churches and senior centers throughout the northwest. When he lost his “singing voice”, he continued to entertain with poems and songs to the delight of his listeners (usually his grandkids), such as “I’m My Own Grandpa” and the “Waking Up with Double Petunia” song as late as this last Christmas.

Always willing to help anyone with anything, in the 1990’s, Walt received the “Oregon Spirit Award” and the Nursing Home Association of Oregon’s “Volunteer of the Year” award. He received these awards because of his work helping seniors with transport. In 1988 he rebuilt an old van to transport the late Virgil Hull to church services, as Hull was confined to a wheelchair. From there, he modified a school bus into a wheelchair bus, the first of its kind in the Rogue Valley. The bus was able to take as many as 14 wheelchair bound people at a time from local nursing homes to church, shopping, and other outings. This was his ministry.

Madelyn, Walt’s dear wife of 55 years, passed away in 1997. He remarried to a lovely woman, Wanda “Lee”, until her passing in 2011. His second son, Steven, preceded him in death in 2021.

He is survived by his children, Charles Smith of Long Beach CA, Karen (Larry) Carns of Grants Pass, and Barry (Lauri) Smith of Grants Pass, along with 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Walt at Hull & Hull Funeral Directors at 1 pm, Friday, April 14th, 2023.

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Service Schedule

Past Services

celebration of life

Friday, April 14, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Pacific time)

Hull & Hull Funeral Directors

612 NW A Street, Grants Pass, OR 97526

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