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Harry "Red" Edward Smith Jr.

May 16, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Harry "Red" Edward Smith Jr., who died May 9 at the age of 83. His obituary appeared in the May 10 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Throughout his life, Harry "Red" Edward Smith Jr. had a knack for knowing more than could be explained, relatives said.

According to one family story, when Lola Virginia Ponton walked by with her two sisters, Red saw them and said to two friends, "Those are the three girls we're going to marry." Red and Lola hadn't met then, but they later did.

They would have celebrated 60 years of marriage in August.

"He had an uncanny sixth sense about him," Robyn Ford said of her father.


It frequently showed up when he was outdoors, his family said. He would know the precise spot to cast and catch fish or which rock to turn over to find helgermites for bait.

Red only made it to sixth grade in school, granddaughter Stacey Hambleton said, but he was educated in many ways.

He knew and respected nature.

When he hunted deer, squirrels or rabbits, it was for meat, not the thrill of the kill.

"When Dad went hunting, he never wasted anything," daughter Debbie Painter said.

Once, Red heard a hunter had ignored his advice and killed a mother groundhog. He had people search for the orphaned babies. They found two; one became Sparky, whom Ford kept as a pet for a few years.

Red was born in Cavetown, in a family of six brothers and four sisters, and briefly lived in an orphanage as a boy. His family moved around as it coped with the Great Depression, Lola Virginia Smith said.

After sixth grade, Red went to an industrial school to learn a trade. His first job was with the Western Maryland Railway.

Red enlisted in the Army at age 18 and served in England, France and Germany from 1943 to 1946, his wife said. He was a locomotive engineer with Company B, 733rd Railway Operation Battalion, helping to run supply trains to the front, Ford said.

He didn't talk a lot about his war service, but the family told one anecdote that matched what they knew about his innate sense.

The story was his company was pinned down in Germany for three days. Then, Red instinctively decided they needed to move right away, and they did -- an hour before the area was shelled.

After the war, Red went to work for the Hagerstown Rubber Co., where he met Lola.

He later took a job at the cement company in the Security area. He stayed there for nearly 33 years, retiring in 1987.

Relatives described him as playful and protective. What set him off, Hambleton said, was "someone mistreating his family."

He taught his immediate and extended family to fish, hunt and shoot -- and stand up for themselves.

"He used to say, 'Don't start nothin', but don't walk away,'" Painter said.

Bowling and baseball were his pastimes.

As a young man, he pitched in a local league that pitted community-based teams in the county against each other. Family photos show him in his Smithsburg jersey.

He started out a New York Yankees fan, but switched to the Cleveland Indians. He would listen to games on the radio, a time when he wasn't to be disturbed. Afterward, he would dissect the game on the phone.

Near the end of his life, as Red was lying in a hospital bed, his family told him his great-grandson Ronnie was coming to visit.

"Yes, at 1 p.m.," Red said mysteriously.

When Ronnie Hambleton showed up, they looked at his parking garage ticket. Ford said it was stamped "1:00" on the dot.

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