County remembers Bronze Star hero

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ivan W. Smith left behind a great legacy and many loved ones, as he was well known in both Chilton County and his home Autauga County.

Smith, who died Tuesday at 94, worked as a technician for the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Chilton County until his retirement in 1976. He was also a World War II veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

“He served his country and did it very bravely,” said Smith’s son, Van Smith, the principal of Billingsley High School.

Smith recalled stories of his father’s experiences, particularly the Battle of the Bulge, in which he had to dig in the frozen ground and live in foxholes. Once, when telling of an instance along the Luxembourg-Germany border, he described the loud, piercing sound of incoming German rockets commonly called “Screaming Meemies.”

Smith was a staff sergeant on an anti-tank gun, serving in the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion of the 28th Infantry. Some of the missions he went on were particularly dangerous. On Dec. 17, 1944, he was injured in battle by a piece of shrapnel, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart.

One Christmas, Smith gave his medals to his son for safekeeping.

“I think dad would say the Lord really blessed him and took care of him,” Van Smith said.

He added that his father was humble about his military service. He had several opportunities to fly to Washington, D.C. on Honor Flight but never really wanted to go.

“He didn’t think that was anything special he had done. He just served his country the way he was supposed to,” Smith said.

He was also dedicated to his home church, Indian Grave Baptist Church near Billingsley, where he served as chairman of deacons for 30 years.

“He was dedicated to his church, committed to his faith, and lived a good example,” Smith said of his father.

People in Chilton County may remember Smith working with Olan Fields on engineer projects such as terraces, ponds and drainage ditches in the city of Clanton. Van Smith said his father’s hard work contributed to his health and longevity, and after retirement he enjoyed his farm, garden and especially his grandchildren for a good many years.

Smith leaves behind two children, the other being his daughter, Janice Smith Farr of Birmingham, along with four grandchildren and one great grandson. He was preceded in death by his wife, Louise.

Funeral services are Friday, March 25 at 11 a.m. at Indian Grave Baptist Church in Billingsley.

“The support the community’s had has been wonderful,” Smith said.