Friday, February 15, 2013

Ethel Linda, the Divine Cow

This was written by Cathy Manau, my parents' neighbor, and a friend of the family. She sent it to my Mom on Valentine's Day. February 15th marked 10 months since my father's passing.

For over 4 years, Bob, my neighbor, struggled with his health. The effects of diabetes and congestive obstructive pulmonary disease finally took their toll until he was confined to a single room in his
home, moving throughout the day between his bed and recliner.

His wife, Priscilla, was his primary caregiver and she tended to Bob’s every need 24/7, massaging his feet with Lavender oil, cutting up fruit for his meals, making sure he was warm and comfortable.
Priscilla would do anything to take care of her beloved husband and dozens of friends and neighbors were more than willing to help.

On occasion, I would stop by to brush Bob’s teeth or if Priscilla needed to run errands, I would “Bobbysit” while she took care of business outside their home. Bob, a retired commercial airline pilot who could be Sully Sullenberger’s twin, loved to tell stories about his experiences in the cockpit, his interests in planes and vintage cars, boating, and traveling.

While I was sitting with Bob one day while Priscilla was away, Bob began to reminisce about his early childhood days growing up in a small town in Mississippi. His family had struggled during the
Depression but were more fortunate than many. They owned a grocery store, had a modest home, garden, and a single cow named Ethel Linda, who provided milk for the family. Bob’s face beamed at the remembrance of Ethel Linda and he painted a clear picture of her standing patiently in a corner of their tiny plot of ground, waiting to be milked. How he loved that cow!

Bob became more frail and passed away a few months later. On the day I received the phone call, I was saddened to hear the news and my thoughts turned to Priscilla. In the early evening, my husband and I walked toward their home and stood helplessly outside, not wanting to intrude on the family as they gathered to mourn the loss of their great patriarch but wishing to offer support in some way.

Another neighbor couple, who had the same desire, joined us on the side of the street. The four of us stood in respectful silence to send warm, loving, comforting thoughts to the newly bereaved family.

As twilight descended, quiet conversation included stories about Bob. My favorite memory was Bob telling me all about Ethel Linda. Just as I finished relating the tale to my husband and neighbors, all four of us heard the clear, distinct, unmistakable moo of a cow in the distance.

We were astonished! Why? Cows have been gone from our neighborhood for several years and even though we searched the area extensively the next day, we never found the source of that divine moo! I can only assume it was Bob reassuring us that he was, indeed, okay!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Dad

By "Laney Girl" - Noelle  
My Dad smells like recycled airplane air and jet fuel after a cross-pacific flight.

My Dad is laying on the ground, under a car, in his bleached out coveralls, covered in oil and grease.

My Dad is sitting at the computer, playing Columns, with the cat on his lap.

My Dad is waving his finger along to a hymn, or some southern twang, smiling.

My Dad is driving us to get an ice cream cone in the ‘54 Ford.  Or the red 57 T-Bird, with the top down.  Or the 1970 station wagon.

My Dad is trolling the boat over to where the good fish are.
He is holding a child on his lap, letting them drive the boat.  Or steer the tractor. Or assist in flying the plane.

My Dad is teaching us to drive.  Stick shifts.
My Dad is sitting in the front row at the tennis match.  Or band concert.
My Dad is teaching kids basic computer skills.
My Dad is serving food to the homeless.

My Dad is checking our oil.  And changing our tires.  He’s helping us move.  And fixing things around our homes.

He is holding his children in his lap.  He’s holding us on his shoulders.

He’s  doing taxes.  Or paying bills.  He’s reconciling the tithes at Church.

He’s fixing one of our Sudanese brothers’ cars.

My Dad is driving.  Cross country.  With kids in the back seat.
My Dad is boating.  On the lake.  Pulling kids on water skis.

My Dad is reading the paper.   Dwelling on the comics.  And laughing at Garfield.

He is beating us all at a game of Hearts, while sitting in a motel or a truckstop diner.

My Dad is gentle.  And strong.

My Dad is snacking on Pecans, shipped from Indianola.
He’s eating black eyes peas.  And corn bread.  And drinking a Coke.
My Dad is walking.  He’s walking tall, and quickly, for miles and miles.
He’s talking to one of his siblings on the phone, and talking with his hands, even though no one can see him.
He’s calling one of our pets a flea bag.  Right before he lets them nestle on his lap.

My Dad is flying. 
He’s flying in Japan. 
He’s flying in Alaska. 
He’s crossing the Pacific. 
He’s teaching us to fly.
He’s teaching missionaries to fly.
He’s a passenger on one of the jets his sons is flying.
He’s a passenger on the Space Needle elevator, while my sister shares stories.

My Dad is telling us a story.  It’s about a fish.  Or a plane.  Or a car.  Or…
There wasn’t always a punch line.  But my Dad never needed a punch line.

My Dad wears fresh white Hane’s t-shirts, under a well-worn favorite sweatshirt.
My Dad blows his nose in pressed handkerchiefs. 
My Dad doesn’t get his hair cut, he gets his ears lowered.
He compliments the waitresses, telling them they’re good cooks.  I tell him they didn’t cook the food.
My Dad laughs.

The doctors tell us My Dad is never going to walk, talk or eat again. 
My Dad is walking, talking and eating after that.
My Dad is blowing out the candles on his 80th.  81st.  82nd.  83rd.  Birthdays.
My Dad meets his great grandson.  And his 2nd granddaughter.  And the love of my life.

My Dad is stubborn.  My Dad is determined.

My Dad is praying.
My Dad is reading the Word of God.
My Dad is communing.

My Dad is loving.
My Dad is full of gratitude.  And hope.  And love.
My Dad is at peace.
My Dad is smiling. 
My Dad is home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Commander Robert Lee Smithhart Jr, 83, USNR (retired), passed away on Sunday, Apr 15, 2012, peacefully at home.

Kent, WA – Commander Robert Lee Smithhart Jr, 83, USNR (retired), passed away on Sunday, Apr 15, 2012, peacefully at home.

Memorial Service: 11:00 am, Saturday, Apr 21, at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Covington. Visitation: Friday, Apr 20, 12:00-4:00 pm at Edline-Yahn & Covington Funeral Chapel, 27221 156th Ave SE, Kent. Interment:  11:00 am, Monday, Apr 23, at the Tahoma National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Robert may send memorials to Union Gospel Mission at, Missionary Aviation at, World Vision at, or World Relief at

Cdr Smithhart was born in Greenville, MS, on July 16, 1928, to Robert Lee Smithhart Sr and Evelyn Pickett Smithhart. Bob went into the Marines after graduating high school. When he returned home after his stint of duty, he attended Sunflower Junior College. He attended naval school in Pensacola, FL in 1949, which included an assignment in Corpus Christi, TX.  He received his first squadron assignment at Whidbey Island, WA. Throughout his career in the Navy, Cdr Smithhart flew numerous aircraft including the B25, P2V, and Corsair. His service took him to Japan, Kodiak, and Spain.

Bob was a commercial airline Captain for United Airlines, retiring in1988.  He started his 33 year career with United as a First Officer and retired as a B747 Captain. He flew legendary aircraft such as the DC3, Convair, DC6, DC7, B720, B727, DC10 and B747.

He was the founder of the Flying Disciples Club, where he instructed 128 young aspiring missionary pilots.

After retirement, he remained at Crest Airpark in Covington, WA. He served on the finance board with Cornerstone United Methodist Church; mentored several Sudanese refugees; founded a computer program at Thomas Academy; assisted with computer classes at Cedar Heights Junior High; continued to work on a variety of airplanes, cars, and boats; and walked several miles daily as long as his health would allow.

Bob was an intelligent, quiet, thoughtful person with many abilities which he developed for the good of others as well as himself.  He knew the sound of a well-tuned engine and loved to work with his hands to achieve that sound.  He had a passion for God, his family, his friends, and his country.

Robert Smithhart married in 1953 and had 2 sons and 1 daughter. In1975, Cdr Smithhart married Priscilla Kampa of Grenville, SD and had 1 son and 1 daughter.

Survivors: His wife of nearly 37 years, Priscilla T. Kampa-Smithhart, sons: Richard L. Smithhart (Kathryn), James R. Smithhart (Sissi), and Carter L. Smithhart (Lisanna), daughters: Jenny Ann Dibley (Doug), and Noelle Sierra Smithhart; brothers: John Smithhart and Thomas Smithhart; sisters: Yvonne Bennett, and Mary Evelyn Smithhart; granddaughters: Michelle Leigh Dittamore, and Audrey Louise Smithhart; grandsons: Colin J. Dittamore, Sam R. Smithhart, and Scott W. Smithhart; great-grandson Grayson A. Newte; and other family members and loved ones.  Robert was preceded in death by his parents and brothers W. Leroy Smithhart and Richard A. Smithhart.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yvonne's account of Bob growing up in the Mississippi Delta

Bob Smithhart

Growing Up in the Mississippi Delta


Of the seven siblings in our family, our brother Bob is the oldest.  He was born in 1928 between the Great Flood of 1927 which broke the levee which was holding back the waters of the great Mississippi River and the Great Depression of 1929.  The levee broke at Greenville where Bob and his young parents lived.  His granddad, William Henry Smithhart, brought the family back to Indianola, where they became a sort of compound with my grandfather’s house in the middle and his sons on either side.  Our Grandparents had a general store on the outer edge of town.  It was in this country-like setting that Bob grew up in a safe haven surrounded by love with siblings and cousins in great abundance.

From the earliest days, he has loved motors and especially cars.  My brothers were always working on a car of early vintage.  Occasionally, Bob would hear the sound of engines in the sky; and as he looked up, a dream began to form in his heart.  Our dad’s storage room behind my grandfather’s store became filled with model planes hanging from the ceiling.  Bob and our brother Richard, who is also a Navy trained pilot, spent many happy childhood hours assembling those planes.

When our father died in 1991, Bob recalled for those who were assembled for the service the family history as he remembered it.  With so many mouths to feed, a cow was an important animal to our family.  Dad taught the first three boys how to tend and milk the cow.  He taught them the importance of responsibility, and they each had paper routes as small boys.  When they were in high school, they worked at the Post Office sorting the mail after school.  Our parents bought a large grocery store downtown, and the boys worked there after school and in the summer.  When our dad had serious surgery, they ran the store with their uncle’s help, so our mother could stay in the hospital with our father.  Most of all, our parents taught us a love for God as foremost in our lives and then a love of country.

Bob went into the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school.  When he returned home after his stint of duty, he attended the community college in our area.  This was a requirement for going into the naval school in Pensacola, Florida.  His training also included an assignment at Corpus Christi, Texas.  He received his first squadron assignment at Whidby Island, Washington, in the great Northwest.

After his service in the Navy was completed, he began to fly for United and flew for the rest of his flying years with them.  He was very busy with his family and his job which he loved dearly, but he never forgot his deep Southern roots in the Mississippi Delta.  He always brought our parents up once a year to enjoy his family and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  On one trip he took them to Knots Berry Farm in California and planned a trip to Hawaii for the 50th Wedding Anniversary.  Our mother died that summer, but he persuaded our dad to make the trip.

No matter what kind of struggles he found himself in, he never lost his base with the Lord.  At one point in his life, he had a flying club called the Flying Disciples, where he trained missionary pilots to fly into the bush countries of their mission points.   He and Priscilla have had a wonderful ministry working with the young Sudanese men that their church supports.  He has always loved his church, his pastor, his fellow church members, the youth activities, the music, and his job with the financial aspects of the church.

As an individual, Bob has always been an intelligent, quiet, thoughtful person with many abilities which he has developed for the good of others as well as himself.  He knows the sound of a well-tuned engine and loves to work with his hands to achieve that sound.  He has a passion for God, his family, friends, and his country.

When I was 25, I became very ill with euremic poisoning and had the death experience.  Bob flew across the 3,000 miles chasm to see for himself that I was recovering from the experience.  Again and again, he has reached out to help us in our times of need according to this great passion that has filled him.

Isn’t God’s timing perfect?  Two weeks ago, God gave Bob the strength to get up from his time of weakness.  He ventured out of the house to the grocery with Priscilla and for short walks around the house.  Las week, he drove himself to see his beloved pastor and friend.  I believe he wanted his surrender to the Lord to be complete.  I also believe that God has blessed him with that peace that passes all earthly understanding.

One day he will rise triumphantly through the skies that have been his second home to his mansion that the Lord has promised him in John 14.  There he will find the Lord waiting for him.  He mother and dad will be there along with his grandmother who was a tremendous prayer warrior and made such an indelible impression on Bob all his life.  What a celebration there will be!

Take comfort in his own words which he shared with me several times over the last few years:  “Yvonne, I am so blessed.  I am so proud of my family!  God has surely blessed me in a great way!”  Truly, my brother Bob has lived with a cup that has been running over with the blessings of the Lord. 


Coit TowerDadandLeroyUncle Bob and my mama (Sarah)_640x480Classof49Bob - MooreheadBob_640x480
Bob FlyingJohn, Richard, Bob, Leroy, Eddie, Tommy, YvonneBob, James, Priscilla, Noelle & Carter249670_10150650053895565_900100564_19485520_2876080_nBob, Carter and NoelleCarter Driving the Boat
Driving the BoatTractorDadCarterNoelleTreeDriving the boatSmithhart siblings_640x480Smithhart event- Who is honoree_640x480
Bert and BobBert and BobCrooked StreetBob and PriscillaDad and CarterDad, Carter, Mom

Dad, a set on Flickr.

During this week of grieving, we are working on collecting and organizing photos. This is a work in progress.

My Mom

Here is a post I wrote about my Mom from a year ago.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An update from my Mom

Last Tuesday, the 4th, Bob was taken to Valley Hospital with heart failure---his lungs were filling with fluid, they removed about one half liter fluid from the lungs and they have responded well. He is in kidney failure, which he has been for some time and his heart is less than 25 % functioning. He is holding his own, can communicate and is determined to get well. He came home today to home hospice by cabulance----instead of ambulance---so he sat in a wheel chair.. He is really happy to be home. I will try to find the energy to update you soon, thank you for all your prayers, warm thoughts and good wishes.