In 1983, Ron Smith borrowed $10,000 and started the weekly newspaper he named the Clark Fork Valley Press in Plains. It was not his first adventure nor his last. At the end of 13 years, that small weekly grew to three and absorbed the Plainsman, the newspaper that was the chief competition.
We often said, “If we die tomorrow, we have led rich and full lives.”
My husband of 47 years, Ronald Gene Smith, 83, passed away of a worn out and much used heart at Utah Valley Hospital on July 8, 2022. For myself and our children, it was too soon and we mourn deeply for the man we loved deeply. He passed on “preparation day,” the eve before the weekly shabbat rest. Seems fitting that he should go to his rest on such a day as this.
He was laid to rest with military honors at Camp W G Williams Veterans Cemetery near Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday, July 12.
Born May 27, 1939, Ron retired from the Army as a captain in 1979, retired from the newspaper business as publisher-owner of three Montana weekly newspapers (Clark Fork Valley Press, Camas Hot Springs Record and the Mineral Independent) in 1996, attended Biola Bible College before the army but graduated Harvest Bible College forty years later with a bachelor’s degree and became ordained in 1999, served as a missionary in Guatemala, Mexico and wherever his feet touched ground. He received a second ordination on July 8, 2010 by Messianic leader, Allen Stanfield who preceded Ron in death by mere weeks.
He was known as father to 11 children and father figure to many more quite literally in all the Americas. Of the 11, some of his children strayed from their father’s daily life, as often happens these days. However, their dad’s heart never strayed from them as Ron lifted them up to his heavenly Father every night with a love and passion that sought only their welfare, especially their spiritual welfare to include “their children and children’s children”. May all his children reap the fruition of those prayers.
From the youngest; Zachariah Andrew Smith, his wife Sharee, and children Audrey, Nathaniel, Aiden, MaKayla and Emilia; Jacob Gilmore Smith, his wife Rachel, and children Geronimo, Henry, Viola, Indiana and Grizzly; Carey Virginia Gonzalez, her husband Luis and children Nicolas and wife Maggie, Carlos and two sons, Damian and Caesar, Carianna “Izzy” and soon to be husband Ryan Bailey , and Zipporah “Zippy”; Marshall David Smith, his wife Shawna and children Tessa and husband Luis Del Real, Isaac and wife, Alexis and son Brett, and Selena; Caroline Gene and husband Mike Putman and children Anthony Myers, Amber Myers, Shelby and Tucker Reardon and daughter, Vera, Emma, and Andrea; Sean Michael Smith, wife Corinne and two daughters, Taylor and Peyton; Deana Lyn Sweet and her children Emily and Sam; Scott Alan Smith and wife Teresa, children Justin and Falissa; Timothy Edward Smith, wife Deanne and children Megan, TJ, Ashley, Trey, Kamron, Kristopher and Lucas; Ronna Kathleen Smith and husband Bob Wadsworth, their children Ben, Daniel, Brittany and Alissa; Mark Ronald Smith, wife Monique and children Cassie and Tyler. Also surviving Ron are his sister, Carie Smith and stepmother, Zoela Smith, four nieces, Darcie Boulter, Sita Schlosser, Lindsi Montgomery and Mable Ward, a nephew, Tucker Do and many others both friends and in-laws.
Of those who looked to him as a father or father figure are so many, I dare not try to name them for I would miss too many. Preceding him in death were his mother, Virginia Bishop, father, Dean J Smith; brother, Dean Smith and his wife Nina and their son Michael; grandsons Nicolas Sweet and Andrew Smith.
Almost every night we blew the shofars and prayed together. Every morning Ron would sit with his coffee and send out his “good mornings”, texts to many who no doubt feel his loss even now two weeks out as that “good morning” no longer comes across their phones. When he knew he was leaving this world, he tried to call to bid them good-bye until he could no longer be understood.
Ron was a brave and adventurous soul. Life with him was sometimes hard and challenging but as I look back, we also counted it exciting and memorable. We married February 8, 1975. We bought our first house in 1976 in Bozeman, Montana where Ron taught National Guard troops. In late October of that year, Carey was born. Then he got orders to move to Washington where he finished out his military career in Public Affairs at Ft. Lewis. We bought five acres and a house there and tried our hands at homesteading.
In 1979, we were pregnant with Jake and we moved to Plains and lived in a wall tent through December snows until we moved into a barn we built. We had never built anything more than a doghouse. But with a book that became splattered with rain, snow, mud and blood, Ron soldiered through that project. Jake was born in the spring. Twenty months later Ron rushed me to the hospital for an emergency cesarean. It was the first one at that hospital in a very long time. Ron happened to be the only Operating Technician available that day pulling a purplish Zach from my belly while his knees were “like rubber”.
We had every intention of building the house next. Instead, in 1983 after a couple years at University of Montana studying journalism, we put those plans on hold. With a borrowed $10,000 Ron started his first weekly newspaper and then another. After a few more years, we bought the Mineral Independent and then finally our competition, The Plainsman which we combined with the Valley Press. After 14 years, we sold three newspapers and went to Bible College in Utah. Against some warnings, we sold almost everything, packed up three vehicles and along with Luis and Carey, their children and Jake and Zach, we drove to Guatemala City, Guatemala.
That move was fraught with breakdowns, trials and hardships that went on for 40 days. A year later, 2000, we headed back north for another 40 days of the same, landing in Baja California where we served as missionaries until 2004. We all moved back to Utah landing in Heber City. Ron and I lasted there about a year before realizing we had left our hearts in Baja and started spending large chunks of the year back in Mexico, finally moving back to Baja in 2007. While sojourning in Heber City, we hosted as many as 22 young people, from south of the equator, in our home in the winter months. As typical J-1 visa students, they spent “their summer vacations” learning English and working in the Park City area.
Sometimes, I thought Ron was harder on them than necessary, but he knew best. He would “counsel” the six Brazilians we hosted on driving in our long snowy driveway when they repeatedly got stuck. After they had gone home and a Brazilian plane went down, Caio messaged Ron to tell him that he was not driving that plane. Caio, who Ron was probably hardest on, came back to visit years later, staying with us in Mexico. We hosted kids for several years from South Africa, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Romania, and a few from the states.
Back in Mexico, we ran the same camp we had ran before, this time being much more active sharing the Hebrew roots of our faith, hosting and teaching others, including leaders, “walking” through the biblical holidays. Each Sukkot (feast of tabernacle) celebration grew in scope and attendance. Our family also grew with dear people that became family to us. People talk about giftings, Ron had a few, but the one that repeatedly stood out was his innate ability to “father” younger men and he did it effortlessly as he simply was himself.
We moved back again to Utah, settling in Mount Pleasant in 2014, another effort to “retire”. However, we were soon traveling again. In 2016 we flew to an off-grid farm in the rain forest of Costa Rica to celebrate Sukkot with a group of people from several countries. Soon after we were invited for a near month stay in Nicaragua. Then Ron was asked to come back to Costa Rica to baptize the younger father of that same farm. He was surprised every time he was so honored by those whom he became a “father”, in faith or esteem. We found ourselves in Costa Rica several times more before 2018 came to an end. In February/March of 2019, we drove from state to state taking the long way to Washington DC on to Pennsylvania and then back. Ron blew the shofar at every border and we prayed for our country. At Washington DC, we circled the nation’s capital blowing the shofar and praying seven times. In 2020, we were all set to spend sukkot in Israel with Yael, our Israeli friend and others when COVID hit. We never made it. Ron had a massive heart attack in late January of 2021 resulting in a triple bypass and valve replacement.
In his final months, we fought a very aggressive prostate cancer spending two months back in Mexico. While there, Ron was visited by many who blessed him not only with their visits but by their memories of time spent with him. He was blessed with seeing just some of the fruit of his life’s “work”, which wasn’t work to him. It was relationship. We often talked about just being who we were made to be was more real, more effective than any finely crafted ministry.
Ron often talked of his adventures, both those we shared and those that preceded our life together. He worked in a sawmill, had nearly 22 years of military service taking him all over the world as a medic, tank commander, Viet Nam advisor and public affairs officer, became a mailman for several years and a limo driver for a time. It was his Viet Nam service and agent orange exposure that were his demise as his cause of death was agent orange related ischemic heart disease.