My husband, Charlie, and I attended the funeral of Gayle B. Smith April 9 in Harrington.
We cannot claim to have been Gayle’s oldest friends, but in the past few years we became like family to Gayle.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Thelma; sons Glenn and Gary; and his brother Ralph. He is survived by his son, Greg Smith and wife Debbie of Harrington; five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He left countless family and friends feeling great loss at his sudden passing.
Traditionally on Sundays, Gayle met old friends for breakfast. He then spent the day at Greg’s with friends and family, possibly target shooting in the field, watching a game or race on television, and always eating their great home cooking - usually including game and fish.
At 84 years young Gayle relished life and was open to new experiences. We swapped reading material; he preferred happy endings, war history, sporting magazines and nature.
His booming voice and laugh, love of good food, pretty women and an occasional glass of wine (not to forget his lean, tall body and good looks) gave the impression of a younger man.
Smith opened Harrington Motors in Harrington in 1947 and sold cars until 1970, when he decided to open a motorcycle shop which he operated until 1995. He was a master conversationalist, always willing to share his wealth of experience in business, fishing, boating, hunting and trap shooting with us, but also was interested in hearing a good story, joke or sharing thoughts - just remember to “turn down the music and talk into my good ear, please.”
On a cold and windy day in late January he took us trap shooting and outscored his younger and sharper-eyed student every time. He humbly told Charlie that to master this skill, practice and repetition were required. During his life he shared this knowledge with his three sons, family and friends. Part of his legacy is the fact that so many learned from him and excelled as a result. He never tired of bragging about his three sons’ target shooting awards and trophy fish.
His home in Lewes is like a museum of photos, awards and the best-that-money-could-buy fishing poles and guns. He was a lifetime member of the NRA and the American Legion in Harrington and in Lewes. In younger days he was an avid member of the Rotary of Harrington and held meetings in his home there.
His boat and namesake, “Da Geezer” was his treasure. Sitting at our dock along the canal was a favorite spot for the past few years, fishing off the back of his boat, or soaking up sun on land - waiting for a friend to join him on a fishing expedition or just to shoot the breeze.
Gayle was a charter member of the Lewes Yacht Club and for years docked his boat in the No. 1 slip. A true patriot, and graduate of Stanton Military Academy, Gayle served his country in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, flying missions on B-29 bombers.
Just last month while at Beebe Medical Center awaiting MRI work, he met a fellow veteran who had flown the Enola Gay. He hounded nurses to find a camera to take a picture of them side by side. The honor thrilled him. Sadly, his trips to the hospital revealed that Gayle had leukemia, the cancer ripping through him faster than his loved ones could imagine.
We all prayed that we would have one more summer to relish Gayle’s company, but the Lord had other plans. Sunday, April 3, was to be his final day in the sunshine on the dock.
Shirtless and laughing with his devoted son, Greg, his grandson Brandon and a few good friends, Gayle said he wished he had a nonalcoholic beer to celebrate the day.
His lasting impression on us all was of his courage, humor, kindness, generosity, honesty and love of the good life in Delaware.