Lonnie Smith, 80, died on June 25, 2016. He was born on Dec. 22, 1935, the son of Alonzo and Edna Blake Smith in Sand Ridge.
He married his “banana-curled beauty” Joan (Lambdin) Smith (Joanie) on June 7, 1960.
God blessed their marriage with four children: son, Kerry David Smith; daughter, Angela Joan Smith; daughter, Amanda Renee (Smith) Cox; and daughter, Melissa Joy (Smith) Pulis.
He was a gifted teacher and he spent his entire life, both personally and professionally, teaching others. When he began college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1952, he chose to pursue a degree in chemistry. He often recounted how God used an event that, on the surface, seemed to be a personal hardship, to change the course of his life and launch him on a path that was his true calling from God.
When he became ill with rheumatic fever, he was forced to drop out of college for a year. When he returned, a guidance counselor convinced him that he had fallen too far behind to return to the chemistry program, so he chose elementary education instead. He never looked back, graduating in the late 1950s with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
He began working as a fifth grade teacher at Belle Valley School District shortly thereafter. He had an ability to paint word pictures that made it easy for his students to grasp abstract concepts he wanted them to learn and remember. He was patient and wise, stern when he needed to be, but always fair. He gained a reputation in the school district as a teacher much loved by the students and respected by his peers.
After nearly 10 years as an exemplary teacher, and spending his summers earning his master’s degree in education by 1962, he was promoted to school principal and remained in this job until he retired in 1992.
Many family members and friends, including his three daughters and his wife, also have had the sheer joy of sitting under his teaching in the many years he spent as a Sunday School teacher. He was an exceptional teacher because he loved to learn. He never stopped reading, studying, and exploring new ideas. He spent his life delving deeper and deeper into the Bible and sharing what he learned with others. He impacted his students with vivid work pictures and metaphors that would help them always remember the life-giving Biblical principles he presented in his classes.
These lessons were further enhanced by his personal example as he lived what he believed in his daily life. His daughters can tell you he never left the house for work in the morning until he had kissed them all and told them he loved them. The kids at school would tell you Mister Smith was always in the cafeteria to help them get that stubborn lid off their Thermos bottles. And more than one of them can recount how impressively far Mister Smith could hit the baseball on the playground.
In these past days as family and friends have spoken of Lonnie and his impact on their lives, these words are heard over and over: gentle, kind, wise, a man of integrity. He will be greatly missed, but we have learned well, and we will see him again soon.
He is survived by his wife, Joan; children Angie Smith; Mandy Cox and her husband, Dane; Melissa Pulis and her husband, Steve; grandchildren Grace Cox, Sarah Cox, Nathan Pulis and Colin Pulis; his sister, Ona; his brother, Mervan; and many other relatives and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and siblings Ralph Kenneth, Della, Virginia, Harold, Wilma Jean, Linda; and son Kerry.
Funeral services were at 11 a.m., June 28, at Billings Assembly of God in Billings, Mo., with the Rev. Rick Morrison officiating. Interment was in the Jonesboro Cemetery.
To leave online condolences for the family, visit www.rendlemanhilemanfh.com.
Rendleman & Hileman Funeral Home in Anna was in charge of arragements.