52 Ancestors Week 6 – Dad (Fred Smith 1929 – 1977) Happy Angel Day

Week 6 of the #52 Ancestors Challenge. Here’s the story behind it if you want to participate. http://www.nostorytoosmall.com/52-ancestors-in-52-weeks

I am posting this on Dad’s angel day. He passed away about this time, 9 PM, on 07 February 1977. I don’t have any photos of Dad, but will try and get one from my sister. Born 26 October 1929 in ? – my birth certificate has Portsmouth, Virginia for his birthplace. The 1930 census list has North Carolina as his birth place. He was 5 months old  in the 1930 census and living in East Lake, Dare County, North Carolina, the home town of his parents. Census has his name as Frederick instead of Fredrick and his mother as Aline (also transcribed as Alice and Alise on different genealogy sites). Between 1930 and 1935, the family moves to Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, North Carolina, based on the 1940 census showing them living in Elizabeth City in 1935. 1930 and 1940 Census records from FamilySearch.org.JS AS FS 1930 Census Upl In the 1940 federal census, the family lived in Nags Head, Dare County on the Outer Banks. His father was Chief of Police of Manteo and working 84 hour/week! I e-mailed the police department and he was only Chief for three months. Grandmother Holland, Dad’s maternal grandmother, was living with them. The family moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, but I am not sure when it happened. Dad enlisted in the Air Force on 08 January 1951 and served several years. V.A. records show his final rank was A2C – Airman Second Class. He was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Harrison County, Mississippi. My parents never talked to me about how or when they met, but they got married 09 May 1952 in Gulfport, Harrison County, Mississippi. Mom and John Strange divorced in September 1951 and she moved from Columbus, Georgia back to Gulfport. Dad loved to travel and our family visited numerous places over the years.  I remember the trip to visit Dad’s father in Portsmouth as he faced surgery; visiting the Battleship Alabama in Mobile; traveling to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit my sister and brother-in-law. The trip to Rapid City included numerous stops each way. We visited Wall Drug, some deep caverns (New Mexico maybe?), Flintstones Bedrock City, Mount Rushmore, and various other places. Unfortunately any photos of the trips were lost from hurricanes, a fire, and too many moves of my own. After Hurricane Camille damaged our house in 1969, we moved to Colorado for a year. Dad spent most of the time working on the house, but did visit when he could. We lived in Nederland, a small town near Boulder, but we traveled far and wide across the state when Dad came to visit. After Dad left the Air Force, he worked as a self-employed contractor until health issues forced him to stop. He still did the occasional carpentry job.

Things I learned from Dad

This is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the things I learned from Dad weren’t taught in the traditional father-son sit down talk. They were from watching how he lived his life and conducted business. He could get credit from any hardware or paint store in the area because they knew he was good for it. He taught me to:

  • Be a man of your word.
  • Respect others even if they don’t respect you.
  • Customer service can make or break your business.
  • The joy of visiting new places. This was years before the Internet made it so easy to find things and virtually visit places.
  • Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time.
  • Vehicle maintenance is expensive, but cheaper than waiting until something breaks.
  • His last lesson was unexpected – you never know how long you will live.

Dad’s death was unexpected. He was only 47 years old. He was diabetic, overweight, and had a history of heart attacks going back over a decade. I remember the night like it was yesterday, and considering my bad memory, that shows how big an impact it had on me. It was a Monday night and I was watching “How the West Was Won” on ABC. We didn’t have cable and only got ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and the occasional ABC affiliate out of Pensacola late at night if the weather was right. We were in the living room, Mom was in the kitchen, and Dad was eating in their bedroom. Mom heard a thunk, called for us, and we found Dad unconscious on the bedroom floor. An ambulance was called and a comedy of errors ensued. Had it not been a life and death situation, it would have been funny.

This photo was taken in 2005, six weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit, but it’s the house we were living in 1977. It looked a lot better back then. The red arrow is the back door and it is a direct connection with my parents’ bedroom. You can’t see it for all the debris, but there is a small stoop, maybe 2′ by 3′ and the house sits a few feet above the roadway. Dad was overweight, probably 280 – 300 # (around 127 – 136 kg for the metric crowd). The layout of the house made taking him out by the side door the only solution. It took several tries and precious minutes as the EMTs wrestled with getting the stretcher out the door and down to street level. Think it took about 10 minutes, but it felt a lot longer. I was in shock and my mind was reeling. It felt surreal, like watching a Three Stooges EMT rescue effort. They eventually got him to the road and in the ambulance, but the lost 10+ minutes of not getting CPR or other medical attention took its toll. When we arrived at the ER, he was dead. The doctors said the EMTs had gotten his heart started twice on the ride in. I hadn’t thought of it until now, but had he lived the likelihood of brain damage was pretty high from the prolonged lack of oxygen.

36th Av GPT Rd Arr Dad’s wish was to be cremated and his ashes scattered across the Colorado mountains. That was a great plan, but he didn’t have life insurance to cover it so he is buried in the Biloxi National Cemetery. I don’t have the exact GPS for his plot, but the right arrow is fairly close to where he is buried. Mom died in 1997 and is buried next to her last husband. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

Mother and step-father's headstones are near the left red arrow and Father's headstone near the right red arrow.

Mother and step-father’s headstones are near the left red arrow and Father’s headstone near the right red arrow.

I took this photo of his headstone in 2007 on my last Hurricane Katrina relief trip. It was with a disposable camera and I was rushed for time as something “big” was happening at the V.A. They almost didn’t let me into the cemetery. Never found out what was going on, but they had a lot more security than normal. Father HeadstoneBillionGraves added a bunch of new features so I was able to add Dad’s information to BillionGraves even though I didn’t have a GPS photo of the headstone. I do have a photo request on BillionGraves for someone to take a photo using the BG app. Here’s his memorial on Find-A-Grave and please feel free to leave a virtual flower if you visit his memorial.

About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's collaborateDealspotr.com
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5 Responses to 52 Ancestors Week 6 – Dad (Fred Smith 1929 – 1977) Happy Angel Day

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 6 Recap | No Story Too Small

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  5. Pingback: Dad You Are Not Forgotten R. I. P. February 7, 1977 | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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