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.