Gaylen “Ed” Smith was a loving husband, a caring father, and a cherished grandfather, great-grandfather and friend to many. Ed’s unexpected passing from this world leaves his loved ones with only memories of time spent with him. Those memorable times will lend to our healing, as we seek to find peace without him. Ed will surely be missed by all.
Life in the 1930’s was an exciting time. In 1937 specifically, Americans marveled at the abilities of airplane pilots; Howard Hughes broke the transcontinental flight speed when he traveled from Los Angeles to Newark in under seven and a half hours! Though he was breaking records, another respectable pilot by the name of Amelia Earhart completely disappeared while in flight - a trace never to be found of her or her plane. San Francisco celebrated the completion of the Golden Gate suspension bridge, and in Chicago, the very first blood bank opened - revolutionizing medicine. As if all of this was not exciting enough, Noel A. and Chella Leona (Ferrell) Smith were announcing the news of their sweet baby boy’s birth. Gaylen Edward was born on September 23rd in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The Smith family moved from Fort Wayne into rural Whitley County of Jefferson Township when Gaylen was quite young, so he grew up knowing the country farming ways. Gaylen, also affectionately known as Ed, watched his father keep the farm running smoothly, and he took his cue to pitch in as soon as he was old enough to do so. His daily routine would consist of taking care of the cows amongst the other many chores before heading off to school in the morning. He did this mostly because the hard working quality was part of who he was, but he also knew that his family needed the extra hand because his dad also worked a job in the factory. When he was not tending to farm tasks, he attended Jefferson Center High School. Ed was active on the basketball team playing center position and even made it into the Indiana High School Hall of Fame with his team.
Upon graduating in 1955, he attended DePaul University for one year, but returned home because he missed his family. When he returned, he continued his diligence in keeping productive by attending classes over the next 4 years for his Carpenter apprenticeship in the Fort Wayne area.
And then there was love. . .while Ed was still in high school, he met a young lady named Shirley A. Nix - though she attended Washington Center. She happened to be quite a basketball fan and just so happened to attend one of Ed’s ball games where she took notice of him right away. When she was at the tender age of 16, the two went on their first date together. She was sweet enough on Ed that she would often leave notes for him with a mutual friend in a driver’s training class. All of the notes were delivered, and love began to bloom. By the time she was 19, their love for one another was undeniably everlasting. The happy couple was married on May 3, 1958 at her family’s catholic church named Saint Catherine of Alexandria. This would become their regular family church after they were married.
The newlyweds received a portion of the family’s farmland from Shirley’s father, and they resided there in a trailer for three years while they worked to build their home on the property. Shirley laid out the plans and Ed used his carpenter’s skills along with a few friends to build their home. As time progressed, they were ready to add to their family of two. Together they welcomed their daughter, Deborah, more commonly known as Debbie, to make their family complete. They enjoyed many memorable times together while living in the house Ed built with his own hands.
Ed lived a full life that involved an enormous amount of dedication to his carpenter career with the Fort Wayne Local Carpenters Union #232 where he spent over 40 years. When he was not working, he thoroughly enjoyed being part of the bible study group and served on his church’s Parrish Council. Ed was also a member of the Columbia City Eagle’s Lodge where he was often found playing cards with friends. He cared greatly for others, and so volunteering with the Laud Fire Department was a perfect fit for Ed. Time spent there was not always serious though, as he participated in his fair share of water ball fights!
Supporting his young family was a high priority for Ed. After his retirement in 1999, there was a lot of life left to enjoy with Shirley. The two had a timeshare in Branson, Missouri, and they would travel there to enjoy the scenery and the many shows. Ed loved being outdoors and tending to his small vegetable garden. He really enjoyed growing purple green beans, sweet corn, strawberries and kohlrabi. While he always tried to persuade some family members to eat kohlrabi, they wrinkled their nose at the thought of eating it and tried to politely say NO! Shirley would join in the work of producing bounty from the soil with her beautiful flower gardens. Shirley lovingly appreciated Ed’s help with the more difficult physical lifting and digging aspects. Of course, we can’t forget Ed’s meticulous lawn care as well - he worked hard to make it a green carpet.
Sometimes, Ed would go coon hunting or play golf, but his most magical time outdoors was when he went mushroom hunting. Many hunting secrets must remain with Ed, but he did share the trick of using a flashlight in the evenings saying it was easier to spot those tricky fungus treasures. He found success in Whitley County and up in Michigan, but those places, as with all mushrooming experts can appreciate, were never exactly shared. In times of solitude, Ed enjoyed watching sports on television and every now and then, he attended college basketball games at Huntington University. He also loved the challenges of putting puzzles together and enjoyed when his daughter-in-law and family members would give him a helping hand.
Ed and Shirley were given the gift of two beautiful grandchildren, Angela and Bradley. Ed found immense joy in watching his grandchildren mature, but before they grew too old, he took each of them on a memorable and special trip for their 10th birthdays. Love and family grew as time passed, and this brought even more celebration of life with four precious and cherished great granddaughters, Ariel, Zoe, Charlotte and Felicity. All of these grandchildren brought Ed and Shirley a wealth of happiness. A few years ago, Debbie rented a cabin for the whole family in Brookville, Indiana, and this was an unforgettable getaway where many memories were created and lots of relaxation occurred; this trip was a very special one for Ed.
Ed’s life was one of admirable hard work and success. He was an amazing provider for his family and a compassionate friend to all who knew him. He was a true believer of taking care of the needs of others and was willing to give whenever it was necessary. His legacy lives on in his family, as he certainly passed on all the values he held dear in his everyday interactions with them. The memories we shared with Ed will forever live close to our hearts, and he will never be forgotten. He will always be the missing piece of the puzzle to his family and friends.
Gaylen “Ed” Smith, 79, of Columbia City, passed away unexpectedly at 12:08 p.m. Saturday, March 18, 2017 at Parkview Regional Medical Center.
Survivors include his loving wife of 58 years, Shirley Smith; daughter, Deborah (Wesley) York, of Richmond; granddaughter, Angela (Shannon) Scieska, of Hammond; grandson, Bradley (Laura) Wood, of Greens Fork; great-grandchildren, Ariel and Zoe Scieska and Charlotte and Felicity Wood; and brothers, Doral E. (Helen) Smith, of Bluffton and Jack D. Smith, of Columbia City. He was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Beverly Juillerat.
Visitation is 2-4 and 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at DeMoney-Grimes, a Life Story Funeral Home, 600 Countryside Drive, Columbia City with a Rosary at 6 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church, 9989 S. State Road 9, Columbia City with visitation one hour prior. Father Dale A. Bauman will be officiating. Burial will follow at St. Catherine’s Cemetery, Nix Settlement. Memorial gifts may be given in Ed’s memory towards Masses or Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. Visit www.demoneygrimes.com to send family condolences or sign the guest register book.