James (Jay) Rhey Smith, age 94, of Overland Park, KS passed away Wednesday March 4, 2020 in Ft. Myers, FL, surrounded by his loving family. Jay was born September 8, 1925 in Jefferson City, MO to the late Oscar Jule and Palagie Ellen (Tisie) Smith. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his brothers Bobby and Harold Smith.
Jay is survived by his wife of 65 years, Beverly (Haerle) Smith, five children; Tayne (Cyndi) Smith of Overland Park, KS, Blake (Priscilla) Smith of Murfreesboro, TN, Jay (Kathi) Smith of Overland Park, KS, Bart (Angela) Smith of Smyrna, TN, and Amy (Von) Freeman of Miami, FL. And the many grandchildren that looked up to their Papa; Tayne II, Caleb, Spencer, Marissa, Grant, Kayla, Aimee, Chase, 6 bonus-grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter Dakota. Jay is also survived by his two sisters; Dolores ‘Tootsie’ (Bobby) Dick of Warrensburg, MO and Shirley Stallard of Wichita, KS and many nieces and nephews.
Upon graduating in 1943 from Smith Cotton High School, Sedalia MO, he immediately joined the US Navy serving as a signalman on the USS Bougainville. During the Korean War, he served as a Captain in the US Army Corp. of Engineers. He had a long and distinguished engineering career with Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company. He managed the engineering unit that constructed the world’s largest helium plant (1963) located in Liberal, Kansas. He was an innovator, and realized Panhandle’s engineering expertise could be marketed to the emerging Middle East oil rich countries. A new division named EPIC (Energy Pipelines International Corporation) was formed and he and a small team traveled to then, the unheard countries, that had untapped markets.
He had a charming smile, and his sense of humor had a little mischief in it; you knew you were going to have a good time with Jay. He told the best stories of his real life experiences, seemingly unbelievable, but all very true of a man who led an extraordinary life. Even in his nineties his mind was as sharp as ever and he could remember in full color.
His eyes would light up when he talked about his family and he still smiled at Beverly when she wasn’t watching, like he had a schoolboy crush. This was a life well lived.
Visitation will be from 6-8 PM Friday March 13, 2020 at the Overland Park Funeral Chapel, 8201 Metcalf Ave. A funeral service will be held Saturday March 14th at 11:00 AM at the Chapel. Burial in Johnson County Memorial Gardens.
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