Thomas H. Smith, age 92 of Wilmington passed away peacefully at home with his beloved and devoted Son by his side after a long and Blessed Life on Monday, November 1, 2021 on All Saints Day.
A Devoted Catholic, Tommy Baby, as he was nicknamed by his school classmates, was born on September 13th, 1929 to Herbert and Elizabeth F. (Bess Connor) Smith at the Old St. Joseph's Hospital on Broadway in Joliet and grew up and spent his formative years on the Eastside of Joliet at 107 Akin Avenue in the Connor Family Homestead.
A proud graduate of Woodland School, Washington Junior High Class of 1943 and J.T.--Joliet Township High School Class of 1947. In grade school, he loved to draw and his favorite superhero, Batman, was a dedicated crossing guard and was a proud member of the Boy Scouts of America. He really enjoyed his time at JT writing prose, taking shop classes and mastering math. He loved to fish from the time he was a little kid and spent many hours and took many trips with Mr. George Stickel. He took his first drink of beer at the former Galli’s Tavern with Mr. Galli in the basement which was part of the Galli house. A cold Schlitz Beer and some homemade fried chicken at Galli’s Tavern was a must and never to be forgotten.
Throughout his life, he always wore a uniform. After high school, he was named the head usher at the Rialto Square Theatre, Orpheum, Mode and Princess Theatres in Joliet. At this time, he also started his career in Civil Service and was hired part time by the US Government at the US Post Office on Scott Street. He was drafted into the Army in 1951 and took Basic Training at Fort Hood, Texas. On Friday, March 8th of 1952 he left New York City on a streamer headed for Germany saying goodbye to Lady Liberty, crossing the English Channel where it was real choppy, seeing the Cliffs of Dover in person and then arriving and stepping foot on foreign soil for the first time in Germany on Monday, August 18th of 1952. While overseas with stops in Germany staying in an old Third Reich SS complex and also Switzerland. He was trained by our government to be an American Badass learning to decipher enemy signals to help the war effort as a Private First Class. He loved his time overseas and had many lasting memories and friendships that he made with other GI's due to their love of America, food, drinks and camaraderie. His tour of duty overseas ended in 1953 and seeing Lady Liberty once again upon his return to American Soil, he ended his military duty in New Jersey with an Honorable Discharge.
Before his return to civilian life and due to his work in the Army, he was recruited by the CIA to come work for them. At that time in his life, he decided that he wanted to come back to the town where he was raised and had family, Joliet, Illinois. Like many GI’s coming back from overseas, he went back to Civil Service and took a fulltime job with the US Postal Service. At this time while delivering mail to Will County Produce, he experienced something that would change his life. He was walking into the doors of Will County Produce when paramedics were bringing out John Thomas Ward(my Mom’s Father) who had just suffered a fatal heart attack. A few days later he along with his mother, Grandma Bess were reading the newspaper when they saw the obituary of the man who was being taken out. They had recognized his name and were talking about how young he was and also about the size of the family(9 kids). Flash forward to around 1960 and he had to go to the Original Joliet Medical Group on Jefferson Street across from the former Skylark Restaurant. At that time he met his future wife, Margaret L. Ward for the first time. At that time she was dating a co-worker from the post office and he asked him if he could ask Marge out. The first time that he went over to the Ward residence on Krakar Avenue, he walked in and saw Ray Webster, a former classmate from JT, Mike Mancuso who’s sister went to school with my Dad at JT and out of the kitchen came John Brookman. He had already known John because his best friend, Louie Apgar had worked on the same line gang at Illinois Bell for years. They then started dating and were married at St. Bernard’s Church on October 20th of 1962. After an amazing reception at Cantigny Post in Joliet where the beer flowed freely, the newlyweds drove to Wilmington to attend Sunday mass at St. Rose Church only to find out that mass had been cancelled that day, went back to Joliet for mass and then honeymooned in New Orleans. Through their combined love of each other, their daughter was conceived but due complications, Mary Margaret was delivered stillborn on September 5th, 1967. On September 3rd, 1969, Thomas J. Smith(TJ) was born and changed their life forever. In Spring of 1974, the Smith’s moved to Wilmington where they spent the rest of their married life. Dad was a Baseball Coach for many years helping out Former Police Chief Frank Lyons on the Clennon Cardinals and also cleaned Chuck’s Barber Shop every Sunday for many years. After retiring from the US Postal Service in 1988 as the last two a day carrier where he would deliver mail on the Eastside and then take the Bluebird bus to the Westside and be dropped off at the White Chimney(now called Al’s Steakhouse) deliver the mail and then take the bus back to Scott Street. After retiring from the Post Office, he took a job at Whitmore Ace Hardware where he worked with Bob Reavis until his work life ended. After that he spent his time going shopping with my Mom, watching QVC, old Westerns and War Films on television, doing laundry at the laundromat, taking Mom to doctor’s appointments, buying scratch off lottery tickets to try to win the big one and getting a couple shooters of peppermint schnapps. He was a Lifetime Member of the VFW, enjoyed seeing his fellow retirees at the Post Office Steak Fry’s, loved life, always had a smile on his face along with a story to tell to anyone who wanted to listen.
Preceded in death and joining him in Heaven are his wife Margaret L. Smith (nee Ward), infant daughter, Mary Margaret Smith, parents Herbert and Elizabeth F. Smith (nee Connor), his brother Clare Thomas, mother-in-law Lillian (Wooden) Ward, special cousin Johnny Cooper, Grandparents known as Ma & Pa--Matthew and Ellen "Nelle" (Gray) Connor, Special Aunt and Uncle Agnes and Fred Davis. Pa Connor was a Decorated Member of the Joliet Police Department with 40 years of service and who brought the Bertillon System from his homeland of Ireland, The Connor Clan including his uncles William, Thomas, Clare, Matthew, Paul and James (Uncle Buck) and Aunts including Isadore McQuaid, Mame (Frank) Cooper who passed away the day TJ was born on 9/3/1969 and never got to meet him and Grandma Mary (Delaney) Connor, Helen (Vyskocial) Connor, cousins Patrick Connor, Mary Jane Olivetti, Paula Springer, Kathleen Bibb and Gloria Warning. Brother in Law and dear friend, John Brookman, Sister in Law Phyllis (Ward) Podlesney, Sister in Law Marie (ReRe--Baitinger) Ward, Niece Michelle Mancuso and lifelong friends till the end including Glen (Louie) and Jane Apgar, Junior Apgar, Freddie Apgar, Neta Apgar and the whole Stickel family.
Survived by his beloved and devoted son, TJ/Thomas J. (Angela) Smith of Wilmington, Step Grand Children Gregory (Kayla) Reavis and Daphne(Dustin) Hughes, Step Great Grand Children Kendall Reavis and Elizabeth Hughes. Sister-In and Brothers in Law include Shirley Brookman, Norma Jean (Raymond) Webster, Lillian (Michael Sr.) Mancuso, Donald Podlesney, Patricia Orosco, Carol (Harold) Clark, John T. Ward and Robert W (Cathy) Ward. Numerous nieces, nephews and two Connor cousins survive, Clare (Virginia--Ginny) Simonic and Matt (Josephine) Connor.
Funeral from the Blackburn-Giegerich-Sonntag Funeral Home, Wednesday November 10, 2021 at 9:15 am to St. Bernard Catholic Church for Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 am. Interment Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. Visitation Tuesday 4-8 p.m. Memorials to Cantigny Post #367 V.F.W. or Kuzma Caring Cottage in Wilmington, IL would be appreciated.