AFRH-G Resident Highlight – Eugene “Smitty” Smith
By Lori Kerns | Librarian
Eugene “Smitty” Smith was born and raised in Ogden, a large city in Utah. His father worked as a railroad brakeman. His mother oversaw the Native Americans working at the Tooele Army Depot barracks. His parents divorced when he was twelve and Smitty decided to stay with his mother after she bribed him with a Daisy BB gun. Smitty was a very active child. As a competitive swimmer, he captured the state AAU title in the 200-yard freestyle in 1955.
Right before he turned nineteen, he made the decision to join the Navy to keep from going to college. He was sent to San Diego, California for boot camp. After completion, he went straight to hospital corps school to begin training for his new position as a Navy corpsman.
Smitty describes his military career as “absolutely wonderful.” He dedicated eighteen years, seven months, and one day to the Navy with most of his time spent on shore duty at exciting locations such as Hawaii and Alaska. He enjoyed downtime at these duty stations by hunting big game and sport fishing. Most importantly, he met his wife, Jean, while serving. The couple married in November of 1957 and eventually had two sons, Charles and Steven. Smitty is very proud that both his sons carried on the family’s military legacy by serving in the Navy.
After retirement, Smitty decided he wanted to become an optometrist. He began college but could not get into optical school so he switched his major to business. After earning his degree, he had a hard time finding a job so he ended up working with a friend at a meat packing plant. Before long, he decided to use his military experience to earn a position as an emergency room director at a hospital in Cortez, Colorado. After a while, he left that position to begin working for the Ute Mountain Tribe where he wrote a tribal specific health plan. Once the grant ran out, he decided to apply for the outgoing housing director’s position and got it. He stayed with the tribe until his in-laws moved to Alaska and needed him to take over their real estate business located in Farmington, New Mexico.
Smitty and Jean were happily married for 55 years before Jean lost her battle to Alzheimer’s in 2012. He made the decision to put his name on the waitlist for AFRH-G knowing that he would need special care for his hearing and vision needs. He got accepted and moved to the Home in October 2014. He enjoys the Home’s facilities by using the gym daily. As an avid hunter and fisherman, he also enjoys his retired life by taking an annual fishing trip where he has reeled in an 8-foot 300-pound sturgeon! His plans this year will take him to Alaska to fish for halibut and salmon. We can’t wait to hear those fish tales!