Generosity, smiles and a continuing legacy: Former Waleska mayor dies at 94
by Michelle Babcock
April 11, 2014 04:00 AM | 2946 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Smith was well-known for his garden in Waleska, the city where he served for many years as mayor. Smith died Wednesday at age 94.
Jack Smith was well-known for his garden in Waleska, the city where he served for many years as mayor. Smith died Wednesday at age 94.
Jack Smith, a man known for his generosity and contributions to the Waleska community, died Wednesday at WellStar-Kennestone Hospital at age 94.

The funeral service is Saturday at 3 p.m. at Waleska First Baptist Church.

Smith was known across the community for his impressive garden, kind heart and big smile, said JoEllen Wilson, vice president for advancement at Reinhardt University and a friend of the Smith family for more than five decades.

“He was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known,” Wilson said. “Even when he was in a tree, at 93 years old, and everyone was getting onto him, he was just smiling and kept sawing off limbs. He was just positive and you always wanted to be around him — he always had a big smile.”

Marguerite Cline, former Waleska major and Cherokee schools superintendent, said Smith was “instrumental in most everything positive that happened in Waleska for decades.”

In his life, Smith was mayor of the city of Waleska, served many years in county government roles and was active in Waleska First Baptist Church, Cline said.

Smith was given the Lamar Haley Community Service Award, along with his wife. He was also named the Cherokee County First Citizen and was honored as a Reinhardt Alumnus of the Year.

Smith gave many gifts, Cline said, including financial contributions to Reinhardt University and Waleska First Baptist.

“People respected him, they trusted him and they loved him,” Cline said.

Smith, a 1938 Reinhardt alumnus, not only attended the school, but continued to contribute to the university in many different ways throughout his life, Wilson said, both with time and resources.

“Jack H. Smith and his wife, Ruby, have supported Reinhardt for many years,” Wilson said.

When Wilson was a freshman at Reinhardt, the school ran out of dorm space, she said.

So, Smith opened up his basement to students.

“Jack and Ruby gave their basement for some of the students here, and one of those students was my future husband,” she said. “He lived with Jack and Ruby for a full year when he came to Reinhardt, and they treated him like a son.”

Wilson said her then-future husband accidentally left his car in gear once and it went into the Smiths’ lake.

“They had to have a wrecker come and pull John’s car out of the lake,” she said. “They were generous in every way, not just with their resources. Jack and Ruby were generous with their time, they were generous with whatever they had — they would share it with others.”

Cline said Smith was instrumental in establishing Waleska’s first fire station, which began as an all-volunteer department.

“Back in the days when the fire truck was kept in one of his chicken houses, a call came in about a fire that was near the talc mines, and there was dynamite that was in a shed there that the fire was going toward,” Cline explained. “In those days, we did not have fire hydrants, we just had a tank of water in the back of the truck.”

Cline said the volunteer firemen, Smith and Floyd Puckett, could not reach the fire with the truck because the flames were in a wooded area.

“They got out of the truck and broke branches off pine trees, and beat the fire out,” Cline said.

The community room at the Waleska Fire Department now bears Smith’s name in honor of his many contributions to the city, Cline said.

Smith was also famous around Waleska for his huge garden, Cline said.

“His garden was legendary,” Cline said. “You could often find him — up until recent days — working in his garden.”

Every year, Smith had a giant garden next to the road “where everyone could wave as they went by,” Cline explained.

“He had a wonderful, productive garden,” Cline said.

Wilson said she and others at Reinhardt enjoyed many fruitful harvests from Smith’s garden.

“He would bring us corn, and green beans and especially tomatoes from his garden,” she said. “He was always very generous with the products of his garden.”

Smith is survived by his wife, Ruby Smith of Waleska; his daughter, Edna Cook of Waleska; along with two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation is scheduled to take place today from 4 to 9 p.m., and again Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m. at Darby Funeral Home at 480 Main Street in Canton.

The funeral service is 3 p.m. at Waleska First Baptist Church, at 10657 Fincher Road in Waleska, with burial to follow at the Georgia National Cemetery at 1080 Veterans Cemetery Road in Canton.

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