Lawrence Dennis Smith

April 21, 1941October 26, 2018
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Lawrence Dennis Smith born April 21, 1941 ~ died October 26, 2018

Lawrence Dennis Smith was born in 1941 in the Los Angeles County General Hospital, a fact he would smilingly remind his family about when they passed it on family trips into the city. In his youth he lived in a number of places around the LA area. His living arrangements and schools changed as his family situation shifted. Within a chaotic family setting, Dennis (he was called by his middle name) found the anchor of his life in a personal Christian faith. He heard Jack MacArthur’s “Voice of Calvary” radio program in 1956 at the age of 15. He remembers tears falling down his cheeks and repeating to himself, “I’m saved, I’m saved.” Whatever the subsequent drama with his family, or the ups and downs of life, he held fast to this Evangelical faith and the God that found him as he listened to the radio.

He was drawn to the ministry. His searching questions about Bible passages led at least one pastor to ask him early on if he had considered the ministry. With some financial help from a man at the Long Beach church he attended, Dennis was able to attend Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada (1958-61). Later he graduated with two bachelor’s degrees from Biola College. In 1968 he enrolled for graduate work at Wheaton College in Illinois. While there he met Virginia Willmer, who he married on December 6, 1969. Also stemming from this time at Wheaton was his pastoral vocation. He took up his first church in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, in July of 1969 (which later moved into a new building in New Stanton, PA). This was a church in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, and he would minister in the C&MA up until the year of his death, with about 45 years of full-time ministry.

Dennis and Virginia had three children: Martyn (1973), Angela (1976), and Joanna (1984). His children owe Dennis much for the constant love and support he gave them. He was a father who was present at all the major events of his children’s lives. He coached youth baseball and soccer teams. At the dinner table he modeled a love for debate and discussion. Much of his work was related to preparing sermons for Sunday morning and evening, and his children remember him sitting and reading and writing out his messages. He leaves behind a rich collection of well-marked up books and sermon notes from across the decades. Dennis was not really one for travel, but since his wife Virginia enjoyed camping and art museums, he gamely went along and found things to enjoy about the experience.

Dennis was a pastor in a succession of small to medium-sized Evangelical churches. After the church in New Stanton he was also senior pastor at churches in Everett, Washington (1975), Oregon City, Oregon (1976), Tara Hills, California (1980), and then Redlands, California (1986). At this last church in Redlands, he served as pastor for over 20 years. During his time in ministry the face of American Evangelicalism was transformed by larger churches and new styles of music. He always cherished the benefits of community and support within a small traditional church. He insisted on joyful but reverent hymns that the congregation could sing together. Those who sat in his congregation will remember his deep, rich voice singing out classic hymns like “At the Cross” or “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”

Upon retiring from his ministry at the Redlands Alliance Church in 2007, Dennis and Virginia chose to move to Fort Worth, Texas, so they could be near their daughter Angela and her family. He was deeply involved in the lives of all his grandchildren, and he took joy in their accomplishments. While in Fort Worth he began a ministry at the Living Hope Alliance church that met in a nearby retirement community. He had always seen himself as serving in ministry right to the end of his life, and that is what in fact happened. He preached until he was too weak to prepare and deliver sermons, and then he continued to design the bulletins each week. On the evening before the last Sunday of his life, when he could barely stand on his own, he asked for help to lay out clothes in the hope that he would be strong enough to attend church the next morning.

Those who were near him in the final days as his body faltered will remember a man who was unfailingly kind and grateful for the help people gave. He voiced numerous times, as best he could, his love and appreciation for his children and especially for his wife Virginia. Those who knew Dennis will always remember the example of a man who was passionate about what he believed to be true. He found this truth in the Bible; He loved the Word of God; He knew the Word of God. Dennis was willing to sacrifice his personal interests for the larger spiritual vision. He was never passionate about politics or personal gain, and instead kept his eyes on the prize that awaited him at the close of life’s race.

He is survived by his wife Virginia Joan Smith, and his three children Martyn Smith (Karen Park), Angela Bullard (Ted), and Joanna McFall (Denny). He also leaves behind eight grandchildren: Christian Bullard, Corbin Bullard, Martha Koenig, Leo Koenig, Arthur Koenig, Aurora Smith, Jeremiah McFall, and Abigail McFall. All who knew him will hold his memory and example dear.

Memorial Service will be held at 2:30 pm, Saturday, November 10, 2018 at Shannon Rufe Snow Funeral Chapel, 6001 Rufe Snow Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76148.


  • Memorial Service Saturday, November 10, 2018

Lawrence Dennis Smith

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Doris Waters

November 9, 2018

Diantha Willmer

November 2, 2018

Many fond memories of my son-in-law Dennis Smith. He was a loving husband to my daughter Virginia, caring father to his children and grandchildren, powerful preacher and singer and wise counsel and friend to other family members. He was a significant part of our family as we were challenged by his sermons, confronted with his tennis skills, enjoyed many laughs together as he was a enthusiastic and smart game player and you always wanted him on your team. As a follower of Jesus, I look forward to reuniting with Dennis at our new home in heaven. Dennis will have many crowns and rewards in heaven as a result of his faithful following of Christ here on earth. I thank God for bringing Dennis into the presence of our family. He will be missed. My prayers go out to all those mourning his loss.

(Written and posted with the assistance of my son Wesley Willmer)

Joanna McFall

October 31, 2018

He was a great loving dad and grandpa!!! We love him