John Hartford Smith, 79, died peacefully at home following a long illness on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Little River.
He was born on Oct. 13, 1940, in Columbia and spent his early childhood in Athens, Ga., and Marietta, Ga., while his father Hallum taught at the University of Georgia and his mother Eatofel pursued a master’s degree in home economics.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Richard Hallum Smith of Smoaks and Eatofel Vereen Arehart of Little River; stepfather, Marcus Alton Thompson of North Myrtle Beach; and sister, Jeanne Sowell of North Myrtle Beach.
Circumstances brought him back to North Myrtle Beach and Little River by age six to grow up surrounded by his large extended Vereen family. The Vereens (Huguenots from France) settled there as one of South Carolina’s first families with a land grant from King George in the late 1600’s which spanned the length of the Grand Strand down to Georgetown County. It was here in the South Carolina low country and under the tutelage of his grandparents, both in Little River and Smoaks, that his early passions and skills in building, sailing, fishing, hunting, camping, and gardening were inspired as a Little River native.
He graduated from Wampee High School in 1958 and went on to become a freshman Citadel cadet and then a graduate of Wofford College. Before graduation, he married Mary Mabrey of Spartanburg, a nursing student at Wofford, and had his first child in 1961. After graduation, they had three more children and he worked as a manager with Milliken and as a vice president with Butte Knit in Spartanburg for the next 20 years while raising his family. During these years, he became a scoutmaster, camped and fished in the Blue Ridge Mountains with family and friends, hiked the Appalachian Trail up to Virginia, sailed regularly on Lake Hartwell and practiced home gardening.
Mr. Smith relocated to Laurens in 1983 with the closing of Butte Knit where he married Lisa Beth Pickman of Plattsburgh, N.Y. They met while working in the garment industry in New York City. Together they owned and operated Green Street Minimart until he retired in 1995. While there, he became an inspiration, through his wisdom and kindness, for neighbors that patronized his business and the many youth who frequented it. After retiring, they returned to Little River where he designed and built his home on the Little River Inlet on property that was in the family from the 1600’s. Mr. Smith continued to enjoy his family and friends as well as a multitude of beloved dogs he raised and trained. He was a member of Little River United Methodist Church and an avid sailor with the Long Bay Sailing Association. He cultivated his cherished azalea gardens and raced “Radio Flyer”, a 37-foot sailboat he built, until his illness. He is known for his athleticism, intelligence, wit and wisdom. He was an affectionate and courageous man; a friend to all.
Mr. Smith is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lisa; his four children, LeeAnn Smith James (Brian) of Australia, John “Jerry” Smith (Marites) of Spartanburg, Mary “Mimi” Smith Yeager (Terry) of Atlanta and Susan Smith Freeman-Rundell (Tim) of Little River; his brother, Marcus Thompson of Supply, N.C.; 10 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and beloved nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is scheduled for Mr. Smith at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, 2020, at McMillan-Small Funeral Home in Myrtle Beach with a reception immediately following. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The American Heart Association: www.heart.org or The American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org.
An online obit is available at msfh.net.