Wiley Howell Smith

April 9, 1928September 3, 2018
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WAYNESVILLE — Wiley Howell Smith, 90, died on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018, at Autumn Care of Waynesville.

Born in Franklin, Smith was the son of Gordon C. Smith and Sue L. Crawford Smith. He had been a resident of Haywood County for more than 45 years, and was known to many as the funny-yet-strict English teacher, Mr. Smith, at Waynesville Township High School.

Smith was a kind soul, with a quiet strength about him and charming presence that made people want to be around him. His sense of humor no doubt kept him young at heart, even in his final days.

Smith was a notorious teacher who was never forgotten by his students. He taught for 30 years and even decades after he retired, Smith’s former students visited him regularly – which always made his day.

Before pursuing his teaching career, Smith served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War in 1950-52, where he was injured by shrapnel in an explosion. He survived the incident and received a purple heart, which he kept in its original case in his bedroom.

After the war, Smith went straight to college at Western Carolina University to become a teacher.

Smith began teaching in Waynesville in 1956 and it didn’t take long before he was recognized as one of the best – and all parents wanted their children in his class. He was strict, yet amusing, and students were expected to work hard in his class to pass. Even today, his students remember the extensive grammar knowledge they learned under his guidance.

In 2006, Smith was diagnosed with prostate cancer and began receiving radiation treatments. After several years, he was in remission from the cancer but the continuous treatments led to lymphoedema, a swelling that developed in his legs, rendering him unable to walk.

As a result he would spend the next decade homebound, which was a challenge for him since he was an avid walker. He was often remembered as the man who walked down Main Street in Waynesville.

Smith even modeled for a short period of time while he briefly lived in Florida, showing off his legs that were no doubt toned from all the walking.

In his older age, Smith found ways to stay busy and keep his mind sharp, despite his inability to walk. A lover of flowers, Smith would admit that he loved plants more than he loved animals.

As proof of his love for plants, Smith was also known for the small garden in front of his home at Francis Apartments in Waynesville, which he cherished. He always had dozens of orchids – his favorite – surrounding him in his home.

Smith was also an avid fan of crossword puzzles and all books – at one point mentioning that, “reading saves his soul.”

Smith was also a music lover and singer with musical family roots. At one point, Smith was a musical director of a choir and even sang at weddings.

Smith lived alone, but he also kept large stuffed bears it his apartment that kept him company.

One of his favorite bears was named Henrietta and it sat in the living room with him. Smith always made the joke that Henrietta “would never answer” him, though he we would talk to her on occasion.

Smith made a joke whenever he could and was always smiling when people were around. Though he had faced war, injuries, cancer and was disabled, he never let it get in the way of his ability to enjoy life. He always looked forward to the next book, the next visit with friends or the next orchid to care for.

Smith was the sole survivor of his family since he never married or had children and he also outlived all of his Army friends. His four siblings, John E. Smith, Gordon Smith Jr., Ellen Smith Thompson and Hazel Smith Sellers all passed away rather young.

Survivors include his nieces JoAnn Sellers Hastings (JD), Brenda Thompson Provencher (Art), DorisThompson Pendergrass (Roger), Patricia Smith Ball and nephew Michael Smith (Jean); Grand nieces Dejah Proventure, Danna Pyatt, Haley Pyatt, Katrina Smith Rhoades (Shane), Racheal Hastings; and grand nephews Michael Provencher, Dorian Provencher, Chris Pendergrass (Paige), Preston Pyatt, Jake Pendergrass, Jonathan Ball, Zachery Smith (Margee), Allan Hastings, Scott Hastings (Terry), Charles Smith, Thomas Smith, John “Jack” Smith and Mathew Hastings.

Visitation will be held on Friday, Sept. 7 from 6-8 p.m. at Garrett Funerals & Cremations. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Garrett Funerals & Cremations and burial will follow at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Franklin.



  • Visitation Friday, September 7, 2018
  • Funeral Service Saturday, September 8, 2018


  • Burial

Wiley Howell Smith

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Tim Shook

September 8, 2018

Having Mr. Smith as my teacher in the early 1960's was a matter pride for myself and many of my classmates. When you made it through a year of his tough standards, you just knew you were ready for what ever was ahead at Waynesville Township High School. He never failed to follow my life, career and family as the years rolled by.
My generation was blessed to have had teachers that served our country then return to pass on skills that would enable us to recognize and seize opportunities previous generations never considered.

Rest in Peace Mr. Smith

Tina Haynes

September 8, 2018

You will be missed! I am so grateful for your friendship and your kind soul! You truly left a lasting legacy with so many students! I never had you as a teacher in class but over the years you taught me a lot! I cherish our visits , conversations and your positive attitude. Your expectations were high of yourself and others but you never had an ugly word. Your laughter leaves a mark on myself, my kids and family!

Paul and Ruth (Greene) Inman

September 7, 2018

I graduated from Tuscola in 1970. I was blessed to be in Mr. Smith's class in the 8th grade. Mr. Smith saw potential in his students that we often didn't see in ourselves. About 20 years ago I wrote Mr. Smith a letter and told him what an impact he had made in my life, and how I appreciated him more as time went on. He wrote me back and said when we came to town, to please come by to see him. After those letters my husband and I visited Mr. Smith when we were back in Waynesville for visits. I am at a loss for words, except to say we love you, Mr. Smith. We will see you on the other side.
Paul and Ruth (Greene) Inman
Kempner, Texas

Kimberly Turner Mathis

September 7, 2018

Mr. Smith was a superior educator and those of us fortunate enough to have him as our teacher are better for it. He did expect excellence but that was only for our own good. I still proofread for others and I catch myself critiquing news casts and shows and saying to myself, wow that was grammatically incorrect!!! He taught us that... he taught us an extensive list of vocabulary words which we all use to this day... This gentle, caring, intelligent, humble soul will be missed but he left us with an extraordinary legacy. Thoughts and prayers to all his family.


September 7, 2018

I will never, ever forget Mr. Wiley Smith, for he will remain where he has been since my days in his classrooms-- in everything I read, in everything I write, as well as in my heart. I send my sincere condolences to Mr. Smith's family and friends and former students.
Respectfully, Mary Jo Kelley Reece

Reba Kelley Miller

September 7, 2018

Wiley Smith was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was interested in his students and would help them however he could. Vocabulary lists and diagramming sentences stand out in my mind. Even after graduating I would often see Wiley on Main Street. I even saw him at Myrtle Beach a few times. Rest In Peace Wiley. You will not be forgotten.

Fred Spencer

September 7, 2018

I guess we all hope to leave our mark on this earth. Wiley Smith has left us with an extremely unique, well-deserved legacy. After visiting Wiley on a regular basis over the last 8 years, it always amazed me that such an intelligent man could possibly conceive that it was "normal" for a retired teacher to have almost daily visits as well as continual thank-you's and cards from former students.
This devotion was further demonstrated at his 90th birthday celebration, which was attended by over 600 people on that special day. He and I counted 340 additional cards received in the mail, which wasn't even a final tally.
I never had Wiley as a teacher, nor did my 2 sons, but my visits with this extraordinary human being helped me to understand what all the fuss was about.
"Mr. Smith", as I referred to him, was by no means "normal", but rather a gigantic gift to each of us that had the privilege to share time with him.

Rest in peace, Mr. Smith.

Margaret Studenc

September 7, 2018

Mr. Smith was the best English teacher I ever had. He inspired me to become an English teacher myself, and I think of him every single time I teach anything that has to do with grammar. He was a wonderful man.

James E (Jim) Harrison

September 7, 2018

Great teachers are a treasure. Wiley Smith was a super teacher, a strong man and good friend. I was one of the lucky few who had Mr. Smith for 8th grade math (rather than English). He was a wonderful math teacher too, with very high expectations for everyone!

I am so glad I got to see him several times during the past couple of years. He also loved art, which he enjoyed talking about, and he was "sharp as a tack" discussing any subject. Mr. Smith was one of the best teachers I ever experienced, including college and graduate school. He ignited my love for math and was a huge positive influence on my life and career. I miss him already.

Peace be to all his students, friends and family.

David Ratcliffe

September 7, 2018

I will always treasure the skills I learned in his 9th grade English class. There is a generation of Waynesville students who are better off to have known him. I'm so glad I was able to attend his 90th birthday but will not be able to attend this weekend. He will be missed.