Wiley Howell Smith
WAYNESVILLE — Wiley Howell Smith, “Mr. Smith,”’ 90, died on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018, at Autumn Care of Waynesville.
Born in Franklin, Smith was the son of Gordon C. Smith and Sue L. Crawford Smith.
He had been a resident of Haywood County for more than 45 years, and was known to many as the funny-yet-strict English teacher, Mr. Smith, at Waynesville Township High School.
Smith was a kind soul, with a quiet strength about him and charming presence that made people want to be around him. His sense of humor, no doubt, kept him young at heart, even in his final days.
Smith was a notorious teacher who was never forgotten by his students. He taught for 30 years and even decades after he retired, Smith’s former students visited him regularly – which always made his day.
Before pursuing his teaching career, Smith served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War in 1954-55, where he was injured by shrapnel in an explosion. He survived the incident and received a Purple Heart, which he kept in its original case in his bedroom.
After the war, Smith went straight to college at Western Carolina University to become a teacher.
Smith began teaching in Waynesville in 1956 and it didn’t take long before he was recognized as one of the best – and all parents wanted their children in his class. He was strict, yet amusing, and students were expected to work hard in his class to pass. Even today, his students remember the extensive grammar knowledge they learned under his guidance.
In 2006, Smith was diagnosed with prostate cancer and began receiving radiation treatments. After several years, he was in remission from the cancer but the continuous treatments led to lymphoedema, a swelling that developed in his legs, rendering him unable to walk.
As a result he would spend the next decade homebound, which was a challenge for him since he was an avid walker. He was often remembered as the man who walked down Main Street in Waynesville.
Smith even modeled for a short period of time while he briefly lived in Florida, showing off his legs that were no doubt toned from all the walking.
In his older age, Smith found ways to stay busy and keep his mind sharp, despite his inability to walk. A lover of flowers, Smith would admit that he loved plants more than he loved animals.
As proof of his love for plants, Smith was also known for the small garden in front of his home at Francis Apartments in Waynesville, which he cherished. He always had dozens of orchids – his favorite – surrounding him in his home.
Smith was also an avid fan of crossword puzzles and all books – at one point mentioning that, “reading saves his soul.”
Smith was also a music lover and singer with musical family roots. At one point, Smith was a musical director of a choir and even sang at weddings.
Smith lived alone, but he also kept large stuffed bears it his apartment that kept him company.
One of his favorite bears was named Henrietta and it sat in the living room with him. Smith always made the joke that Henrietta “would never answer” him, though he we would talk to her on occasion.
Smith made a joke whenever he could and was always smiling when people were around. Though he had faced war, injuries, cancer and was disabled, he never let it get in the way of his ability to enjoy life. He always looked forward to the next book, the next visit with friends or the next orchid to care for.
Smith was the sole survivor of his family since he never married or had children and he also outlived all of his Army friends. His four siblings, John E. Smith, Gordon Smith Jr., Ellen Smith Thompson and Hazel Smith Sellers, all passed away rather young.
Survivors include his nieces JoAnn Sellers Hastings (JD), Brenda Thompson Provencher (Art), Doris Thompson Pendergrass (Roger),
Patrica Smith Ball; nephew Michael Smith (Jean); grand-nieces Dejah Proventure, Danna Pyatt, Haley Pyatt, Katrina Smith Rhoades (Shane) and Racheal Hastings; and grand-nephews Michael Provencher, Dorian Provencher, Chris Pendergrass (Paige), Preston Pyatt, Jake Pendergrass, Jonathan Ball, Zachery Smith (Margee), Allan Hastings, Scott Hastings (Terry), Charles Smith, Thomas Smith, John “Jack” Smith and Mathew Hastings.
Visitation was held on Friday, Sept. 7 at at Garrett Funerals & Cremations. Funeral services were held Saturday, Sept. 8 at Garrett Funerals & Cremations, and burial followed at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Franklin.
A message of comfort may be left for the family, and an online guest registry may be signed at garrettfuneralsandcremations.com