James E. Smith, 88, of St. Elmo, died at 4:22 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, at St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday at First United Methodist Church in St. Elmo. Burial with military rites will be in Coulterville City Cemetery in Coulterville. Visitation will be held from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday at Kessel Funeral Home in St. Elmo and one hour before services on Friday at the church. Memorials: Coulterville VFW Post 6865, 511 W. VFW St., Coulterville 62237; or First United Methodist Church, Vit-Em-In Sunday school class, 215 N. Walnut St., St. Elmo 62458. Online condolences may be made at www.KesselFH.com.
Mr. Smith was born on March 2, 1921, in Coulterville, the son of William H. and Zema Lee Hollifield Smith. He married Sylvia Ruth Johnson on Aug. 28, 1944, in Morganfield, Ky.
He attended junior college in Iola, Kan., where he played baseball. In 1942, he was recruited to play for the New York Yankees minor league team in Missouri, the Joplin Minors, and then enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served in World War II from 1942-45, attaining the rank of first lieutenant with the 15th Air Force, 727 Bomber Squadron, 451st Bomber Group. His crew 35 successful missions with no loss of life, and in 1945, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal for Meritorious Service for a raid over Austria. After his stint in the service, Mr. Smith was promoted to Class A baseball, but he decided to attend Southern Illinois University, where he received a bachelor’s degree. While at SIU, he restarted the baseball program, which was suspended during the war, and played baseball with several other veterans. He earned a master’s degree at the University of Illinois in Champaign and began his post-graduate studies at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He taught and coached at several schools in the state, including Morrisonville from 1948-63, and he was superintendent of the St. Elmo School District from 1965 until his retirement in 1985.
He was a member of First United Methodist Church and its Vit-Em-In Sunday school class in St. Elmo, Coulterville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6865 and Illinois Retired Teachers Association; a member of the Morrisonville Masonic Lodge for more than 50 years; a contributor to the SIU-Carbondale Athletic Association; a member and past president of the St. Elmo Lions Club; a charter member of the St. Elmo Golf Club; and he assisted in the establishment of Mid-State Special Education. He was named St. Elmo’s Citizen of the Year in 2009.
He is survived by a son, Brian Smith and his wife Beth of Mattoon; daughter, Julie and her husband Roger Cain of Oregon, Ill.; daughter-in-law, Deberah Smith of Morrisonville; grandchildren, Monica and her husband Brad Wilhelm of Manteno, Todd Smith and his wife Heath of Peoria, Alex Cain of Oregon, Ill., and Payton Smith of Mattoon; great-grandson, Robert Wilhelm; one nephew; and three nieces.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, on July 24, 2006; son, Eric Smith, on Oct. 6, 2001; and sisters, Billie Patton and infant Lisbeth Smith.