Leo Smith

This page updated 12 January 2009

Leo James Smith was born January 25th, 1919 in Petit Oklahoma, at home in his family's log cabin home, near Lake Tenkiller. At birth Leo only weighed 1 pound. His first baby crib was a shoe box. His mother put him on the oven door to keep him warm. His father determined his weight by weighing another person on a cotton scale and re-weighing them holding baby Leo. He said he was kicked in the head by a mare horse when he was 18 months old, but the doctor said there was no concussion and he was feeling better in a few weeks.

Leo's father was James Smith and his mother's name was Henrietta Carlyle-Smith. Leo’s father was 1/4th and his mother was 1/8th Cherokee. Leo went to elementary school at Petit Bay School and then at Tahlequah High School.

Leo didn't finish high school but went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) 14 1938 and again in 1940 for another 6 months. While in the CCC he had to work with a pick and shovel most of the time. He was involved in the construction of the Park at Devils Tower, Wyoming. The 2nd project he worked on was an a lot of irrigation canals in Wyoming. The CCC projects in Wyoming were and summer and winter with temperatures at times -30 degrees F. Leo also had to fight Forest fires while in the CCC. At times he had to work non-stop from 10 AM until 2 AM the next morning with nothing to eat but 1 Sloppy Joe sandwich and water and no coffee. The crews usually had about 40 members. Leo also worked in the CCC at Cody, Wyoming. Food was scarce and he recalls one day for breakfast the men were served 3 prunes and 1 piece of bread, dinner consisted of green beans and bread.

From the CCC he went into the U.S. Navy. He was in the USN November 12th 1942 through august 22nd 1945. His first assignment in the NAVY was aboard the USS Bellawood aircraft carrier. He served on the Bellawood for 14 months as an ammunition loader for 40MM anti-aircraft guns all over the Pacific Theater. His next assignment aboard the Destroyer USS Shey for 6 months as a Fire Control Technician and worked in the Fire Control Plotting Room. His job was to adjust the destroyers guns for range and elevation while firing at enemy targets during WWII. He was transferred from the Shey to a shore duty assignment in New Orleans and served there until the end of the war. His duties there were working in the Gun Shop modifying 20mm and 40mm cannons.

Leo seriously injured his back while handling ammunition and was sent to Philadelphia to the Navy Hospital. From there he was transferred to New Orleans Navy Base and was Honorable Discharge.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy at the end of the war, Leo went to work at a logging camp in Tuolomie, California. He and his working buddies used to go into nearby Jamestown, California for beers and good times. The population of Jamestown was only 300 but there were 7 bars and 12 hotels. Leo worked at the logging camp for 3 seasons and then went to GI school for 2 years to become a Diesel Mechanic. After completing GI school he returned to the logging camp for one more season.

Next, Leo went to work for Jarrett Construction Company in Pasadena, California and started as an Oil er, and soon was promoted to an heavy equipment operator. After working there for several years, Leo has an accident on the job and his hip was crushed. After many months of recovery he met Julia Margaret Turner-Schwab, our Mom.

At the same time Leo went to work at Radex Corp. as a micro-welding assembling encapsulated electronic modules used on the NASA Apollo I project. He worked at Radex for 8 years before they went out of business.

After Radex closed Leo went to work for the Bellflower School District as a janitor and grounds keeper. He worked there for 3 years and then retired. After retiring he and Mom moved to Petit Oklahoma in 1975 and bought a nice 1 bedroom cabin near Tenkiller Lake. Once they lived in Oklahoma, his nephew Harley Terrell took him to the Veterans Administration in Tahlequah and got him approved for 100% disability benefits. The VA had never told him up until then, that he was qualified for a disability pension.

Leo was an avid fisherman. He taught me how to catch and clean catfish. We spent many summers fishing together and playing cards and a marble game called Aggravation. Leo has and still is an avid card player, very shrewd and lucky at cards.

After Mom passed away in 1986, Leo moved to Tahlequah in a very nice and secure senior community on North Street. He is still there and is 89 years old at the time of this writing, September 2008.

The Smith Children:

Topsy - House wife and mother,  now age 92 lives near Tahlequah, Ok.

Pauline - House wife, aircraft worker at Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, Ca. - deceased

Patricia - House wife - deceased

Vancil - US Air force, Insurance Company, Construction, Water Plant worker, Mail Carrier - Lives near Tahlequah, Ok.

Ada - House wife, worked at VA hospital in Fresno, Ca. for 27 years - deceased

Ruth Ann - worked in accounting at Campbell's Soup Company for 35 years, retired and lives in Springdale Arkansas.

Leo will be 90 years of age January 25th 2009.  He is currently residing at the Grace Living Center in Tahlequah.  He was recently hospitalized for intestinal complications and is now undergoing rehabilitation and requires full care. 

January 12, 2009 At the time of this writing I am visiting him daily.  He still loves to play cards, and as always, usually wins every game of Rummy we play.  I got here last week and will be able to stay through the 18th of January. Leo's full recovery is questionable but he is getting stronger and is eating better each day I visit with him.  I hope he is able to come home to his little apartment some day soon.  That is what he wants most.


Sister Donna, Wife Donna, Leo and Delmar October 2008 at Silome Springs, Arkansas.