Wendell Leigh Smith, 86, died on May 28, 2021. Born March 18, 1935, in Ohio, Illinois to Thomas and Gladys (McVicker) Smith, he married the love of his life, Helen Marie Giltner, on Jan. 29, 1955 at St. Patrick Church in Sheffield, Illinois.
He graduated from Sheffield High School and attended Western Illinois University before spending four years in the Navy and Reserves as a hospital medic. He then attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. He went on to do graduate work at the University of Iowa where he was a teaching and research assistant and continued teaching in the Biology Department at St. Ambrose University. He later attended Northern Illinois University and was awarded a master’s degree in 1964.
He taught at Fremd High School in Palatine for two years and then Oak Park and River Forest High School for 29 years. He coached in the track and soccer programs, and after many years in men’s soccer, he was asked to start the women’s soccer program. His many accomplishments during his career at OPRF included Illinois Science Teacher of the Year, Illinois Coach of the Year for Woman’s Soccer, Coaches Hall of Fame, and initiating many academic programs like Earth Science.
He and his wife loved to travel which started with camping with their children, and later in life in their motor home. They traveled to all 50 states and six continents where he loved jogging. He joked that he “jogged around the world.”
He was happiest spending time with his family, road tripping, and giving impromptu roadside geology “classes,” watching anything Chicago sports, and eating “his” ice cream. He was very proud of his children who were spread across the country so he and Marie could travel, sight-see, and visit their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Wendell Smith is survived by his six children, Loren (Janiece) Smith, Victoria (William) Iannazzi, Jeffry (Anne) Smith, Brian (Mary) Smith, Keith (Darla) Smith, and Kelly Smith; his 20 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren with one on the way.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or the American Heart Association.
There will be a Mass of celebration of Wendell’s life at St. Patrick Church in Sheffield on June 3 at 11 a.m., followed by interment at the St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery in Buda, Illinois.
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