OBITUARY

Walter Thomas Smith : Lieutenant Colonel United States Air Force, Retired

April 27, 1923July 9, 2019

Lt. Colonel Walter Thomas Smith, U.S. Air Force Retired, passed away peacefully at the age of 96 on July 9, 2019 in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

There are too many events, acts of bravery, and tales of woe to try to touch on. No matter how he travelled - whether by car, plane, train, boat, bicycle, or even horseback, there was a story. But leave it to say that however you knew him, you will never forget him.

Wally was a calculating strategist. If you played against him in a card game he could tell you what was in your hand before the entire deck was dealt. Time at the Mah Jong table with him was an exercise in humility as he was always two to three moves ahead of his opponents.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, he moved during the Great Depression to Southern California with his mother and grandmother. He told stories of how his grandmother would only allow each family member to use 3 squares of toilet paper and that they all took baths in the same 3 inches of water, he was always last because he was the dirtiest. As a teenager and young man, he had all the typical miscellaneous jobs including one with the Los Angeles Times and then joined the Army Air Corp at the age of 20.

Towards the end of WWII, Smitty trained to become a bombardier, logging more than 1,000 hours in the B-42. On May 13, 1948 he married Barbara Muir and on Halloween Day of that year, he was shipped to Okinawa and on to fight the Korean War. Shortly after his deployment, they found out that Barbara was pregnant and by the time he returned to the states, his daughter, Robin Lynn was 3 months old. With the Korean War ending, he continued his Air Force Career with assignments in Montana, attended Chinese language school at Yale, Connecticut, and then promoted to Captain as a navigator in B-47’s out of March AFB California – during the cold war – the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Now a Major he was offered a job with the CIA (not known at the time). In 1962, and with the onset of computers, he was an analyst (or so we were told) at the Agency in Langley, Virginia and the family transferred Falls Church. Because this agency was so secret at the time, Barb and Robin thought that he worked at the Department of Transportation – that’s what the sign said at the entrance where they dropped him off. He could never talk about his day at work so he filled in the blanks with characters that might have worked with him as if he worked at the DOT.

Quoting Col. Larry McClain, Former Commander at Groom Lake: "For it is the lot of some men to be assigned duties about which they may not speak. Such work is not for every man. But those who accept the burdens implicit in this silent labor realize a camaraderie and sense of value known to few. These memories cannot be stolen. They will last always, untarnished, ever better." In 1965, another cross-country trip brought them to Las Vegas and weekly flights to Area 51 and Groom Lake. Anticipating his upcoming retirement, Walt started a Concrete Pumping company and settled down in a nice house with plenty of room for horses, dogs, cats, donkeys, and chickens. Not so fast Smitty. 1968 sent him to Tucson Arizona, then to Orlando Florida to flight plan for the SR-71 (of course no one knew that then). Vietnam had become officially more than a skirmish, and he accepted his first overseas in 1970 to Udon, Thailand – Vietnam. There he worked with Air America and continued to do whatever they do – still under the cloak of secrecy. We do know that he lost most of his hearing while doing some reconnaissance in helicopters in the middle of fire fights. In 1972 Walt and Barb brought home two of the most precious cargo, adopted daughters, Deborah DeLynn and Jennifer JoLynn.

The new family, Robin was married and stayed in Las Vegas, headed back to Langley, Virginia. Towards the end of his career they came back to Las Vegas, but Walt continued to criss-cross the country until finally retired from the Air Force and CIA in 1995. In 1997, his wife Barbara passed away.

Sailing was Walt’s second passion and he got out in his sailboats whenever the opportunity arose. He was so proud to have made the trip down the intracoastal from Washington D.C. to Jacksonville – and back again. In 2000, Wally married Carol Morley and moved to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where he was able to be by the water for his remaining years.

Walt was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara; and his parents Walter T. Smith and Eunice Ristow. He is survived by his daughters: Robin Smith and Deborah Lee, of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and Jennifer Long and grandson, Logan Long of Las Vegas, Nevada; his wife, Carol Smith of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and stepchildren: David Wright and Melissa Hicks.

Funeral Services with full military honors will be at 12:00 PM on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 1900 Veterans Memorial Drive, Boulder City, Nevada.

Services

  • Graveside Service

    Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Memories

Walter Thomas Smith : Lieutenant Colonel United States Air Force, Retired

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Ron Holst

July 16, 2019

I always remember Uncle Wally's great smile and kindness. I remember on Christmas at Aunt Shirley's home when the hole family was there. Aunt Eunice and Uncle Wally came outside first them Barbara and then Uncle Wally holding a brown puddle. Then Robin came out smiling. I caught that all on my 8mm camera. I also remember Uncle Wally taking some of us to Catalina on his sail boat. First time I heard of Spam. I remember when I had to choose what military to join and Uncle Wally was at March Air Force Base and told me if I joined the Air Force he would watch out for me. I think they lived in Riverside at that time on Robin Road. The last time I saw Uncle Wally was at Jennifer's wedding reception and we all sat at the same table.
Again always smiling and caring. Oh I just remembered he took us around Washington D.C and showed us the highlights of the area. We pulled up to a guarded area and he said he worked there but couldn't tell us what he did. I know that he is now with his family and having a great reunion with Barbara and his parents and my mom and Shirley and Uncle Bill and Aunt Muriel. Family are forever and our memories will keep them in our hearts always. My love to Robin and his entire family.

Paula and Charlie Renouf

July 16, 2019

Dear Carol, We are so sorry to hear of Walters passing and just wanted to let you know you are both in our thoughts and prayers.
Love Paula & Charlie ( snowbirds from Nova Scotia)