Donald Ray Smith passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family, on March 2, 2023.
He was born in Gainesville, Florida, to Donald Simms Smith and Mildred Rae Cooper Smith, and had a beloved younger sister, Deborah Lee (Smith) Ritter (all predeceased). He loved to tell stories about his childhood. He lived in Green Cove Springs as a young child, which he described as an idyllic life, like something out of the Mark Twain books he loved. Later the family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, living in a house on Robin Hood Lane.
In his early twenties, Don wanted to see the world from a ship, so he joined the Navy, which brought him to Rhode Island, the place he loved and called home for the rest of his life. He was an electrician’s mate on the USS Barry (DD 933) for two years, during which time he went to Rome and Greece and jumped off the ship to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, which he described as “the bluest sea, so gorgeous, if you ever can go see it, go see it.”
After leaving the Navy, Don wore many hats, working over the years as an electrician, crane operator, welder, sign hanger, production supervisor at the Newport Naval Station, planner & estimator, system administrator, and utilities metering management. He retired as an electrician after forty three years of working for the Department of Defense at Naval Station Newport.
As soon as he first saw the love of his life, Elaine (Robinson) Smith, he asked her to dance. The rest is a history of two people who loved each other and built a beautiful life together. They loved traveling, spending time with friends, eating good food, and sitting out on their deck in nice weather. Most of all, they treasured being together with their five grandchildren: Emma, Julia, Henry, Carina, and Lily.
Don loved telling stories and talking to everyone. He instilled in his children a life-long love of reading, hiking & camping, and bad jokes. He loved strawberry ice cream from Newport Creamery, Frostee Freeze soft serve, lobster rolls, Elaine’s cooking, watching HGTV, sailing on Narragansett Bay, and listening to Beethoven. But most of all, he loved his family.
He is survived by his beloved wife Elaine; his children, Karyn Smith (Bob Wyckoff) and Matthew Smith (Beth Lammers); his stepchildren Lynn (Robinson) Hanlon (Bill Hanlon) and James Robinson; his brother-in-law Ealy Ritter; his half brother Charles Edward Cooper; nephews and nieces, cousins, and many dear friends.
The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and staff of Newport Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital. When they asked Don if there was anything he needed, he would tell them: a ride home, a cold beer, a hamburger. They couldn’t do any of that for him, but they valiantly worked to prolong his life. And when they realized his life was near its end, they brought him a hamburger and a brownie, and they hugged his family and told us what we knew: that Don was a kind man, so much fun to talk to, and that he would be greatly missed.
A private Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to take the advice Don gave his grandchildren: “Remember, and this is VERY important: have a lot of fun.”