Henry Colbert Smith, Sr. passed away peacefully on July 22, 2020 at age 90 at his Whitemarsh Island home.
Henry was born in Brunswick, Georgia on August 31, 1929 to Mr. and Mrs. George Sumpter Smith. When he was young the family moved to Savannah. He graduated from Savannah High School, class of 1947, where he met the love of his life, and wife of 69 years, Margaret Ward Sipple.
A huge influence in Henry’s childhood was the summers he spent with his loving grandparents on their tobacco and peanut farm in Cairo, Georgia. He learned the value of hard work and responsibility through his chores, which included feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, harvesting tobacco, and working in the drying barns. He also developed his love of nature and the ability to build and repair most anything that the farm work required, a skill he would use throughout his life.
After receiving his Associate Degree from Armstrong College in 1949, he joined the U.S. Navy. That same year in August, he enrolled in the Naval Aviation Cadet School in Pensacola, Florida. After receiving his wings on May 2, 1951, he and Margaret walked across the quad to the Naval Air Station Chapel where they were married. His advanced flight training took them to Corpus Christi, TX, Key West, FL, Sanford, FL and Jacksonville, FL, where he trained to be a night fighter pilot. He served on the following Naval Aircraft Carriers: the USS Leyte, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Midway, USS Cabot, and the USS Wright. During his Navy Aviation career, he flew the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Vought F4U-1D Corsair, and Douglas A-1 Skyraider. By the end of his service Henry had flown over 400 day missions and 44 night missions. Henry often said, “You never get used to night landings on a carrier. Each time you land at night, it feels like the first time.”
After the Navy, he received a BS in Accounting and Transportation from the University of Tennessee, an impressive accomplishment considering he had three children and three jobs while attending college. Henry and his family returned to Savannah where he worked with his father at Arrow Bekins Van Lines. Upon his father’s retirement, Henry purchased the company and successfully expanded the business.
Henry lived his life devoted to God, family, country and education. He believed that education was the key to all doors and was strongly committed to providing higher education for his five children. He was a member of Epworth United Methodist Church where he served in numerous capacities for fifty years. After moving to Whitemarsh Island he transferred his membership to Wilmington Island United Methodist.
As a humble servant of God, Henry quietly did acts of goodness over and over with no expectation of recognition. He was a man of simple needs with a tremendous sense of giving, especially to the underprivileged. He served as president of Wesley Community Center and United Way Board of Directors. He also served as Chairman of the United Way Finance division. While overseeing the funding he spent several days and nights as a homeless person in the shelters of Savannah to understand the problems of the people he was trying to serve and to ensure that the needs of the poor were being met.
Henry was a Renaissance man with many diverse hobbies and interests. During his years of night flying, he developed a great love for the stars, planets, and moon. While pursuing this passion he designed and built reflector telescopes. He ground the lenses and curved the mirrors by hand. His family fondly remembers viewing the night skies with their father from their home. He even went so far as to paint part of the streetlight black to diminish the light pollution for better viewing and photographing of astronomical events. He later donated his largest telescope to Oatland Island.
In his fifties, he began competitive cycling. He enjoyed building European racing bikes and came in second in the state of Georgia in a 100 mile race for his age division. He enjoyed sketching and oil painting, building and flying model airplanes, and attending the Blue Angels air shows. He was an accomplished musician, playing piano, organ, and trumpet. He played the trumpet in the Savannah High School band. With many companions over many years, he fished and explored the salt marshes with skill and wonder. He loved cooking Sunday night suppers for his family and grandchildren. He was a blessed man due to his godly walk on earth.
Henry is survived by his five children: Henry Colbert Smith, Jr., (Dorothy), Carol Smith Lewis (Curtis), Margaret Smith Judkins (Holland), Donna Ruth Smith, all of Savannah; Kay Smith Weber (Daniel) of Atlanta, Georgia; ten grandchildren, Benjamin Alexander Smith (Heather), Stuart Ward Smith (Lauryn), Philip Andrew Smith, Marshall Julian Weber, Kathleen Nicole Weber, Dr. Caroline Michaux Lewis Stovall (Brady), Julius Curtis Lewis IV (Caroline), Henry Smith Lewis, Henry Colbert Judkins, Holland Ball Judkins IV; great-grandsons, Lukas Jericho Smith, Duncan Rodriguez Smith, and several nieces and cousins.
He was predeceased by his wife, his parents, his sister, Sue Smith Anderson, and one granddaughter, Joanna Nell Smith.
The family is especially grateful to Dora Shepard, Pearl Bolton, Lilar Benton, and Carolyn Milton for their devotion. The family would also like to thank Hospice Savannah, Dr. Robert Rollings, Dr. Timothy Daugherty and Memorial Health University Medical Center for their loving care.
With concern for the health and safety of family and friends, a private graveside funeral service will be held at Bonaventure Cemetery, conducted by the Reverend William G. Hester, his lifelong friend in Christ.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests consideration of memorial donations to Hospice Savannah, Inc., 1352 Eisenhower Drive, Savannah, GA 31406, or to United Way of the Coastal Empire, 428 Bull Street, Savannah, GA 31401, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.