Joseph Smith

Joseph E. Smith was a kind, quiet, unassuming man with a wry sense of humor and a calm, respectful manner who could find balance in everything, his daughter Kerry Smith said.

“He was salt-of-the-earth steady ... a very under-the-radar kind of guy. He never wanted to be the first guy you’d notice in a room,” she said. “He’d always find the quirky way to look at things.”

Mr. Smith was an engineer by trade, he liked to build things — both physical items and the community at large, she said.

“He believed in contributing,” his daughter said. “He just didn’t make a fuss about it. It was the way he lived. He just did the right thing every day.”

Mr. Smith served on the Grafton School Board from 1966 to 1976, and he worked with the Grafton Sewer and Water Commission for many years.

He portrayed Snoopy in Grafton parades for several years, making sure to shake the hand of every child who called out for him.

He worked for EST Co. for more than 30 years, starting as director of engineering and retiring in 1984 as vice president of the company.

When he retired, the company issued a statement that read “Joe contributed greatly to the growth of EST and his intelligence, sensibility and mild manner served as an equalizer in decision making.

“A great many people and things benefitted when Joe’s life touched them.”

Even in retirement, Mr. Smith continued his community involvement.

He worked with Habitat for Humanity on Concordia College’s Laborers for Christ crew and was a member of the advisory board for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Mr. Smith, who lived in Grafton, died at Lawlis Family Hospice in Mequon on Wednesday, June 26. He was 99.

Mr. Smith was born in Marcellus, Mich., on Dec. 25, 1919, to Millard and Ethel Emmons Smith.

He graduated from PawPaw High School in PawPaw, Mich., in 1937 and went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in Indiana.

Mr. Smith did machine designing for General Motors before joining the U.S. Navy in 1943. He was an ensign assigned to the Ninth Naval District aboard the USS PCE-R 850 and, while he never saw combat, he was in Tokyo Harbor when the Japanese signed the surrender that officially ended World War II.

He recalled watching U.S. ships sailing out of the harbor with “Homeward Bound” banners made from bedsheets, his daughter said.

“That was very meaningful to him,” she said.

On Nov. 1. 1947, he married Dorothy Strohm in Milwaukee. The couple moved to Grafton in 1953, when Mr. Smith worked for  EST Co.

Mr. Smith was an active member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Grafton.

He loved to spend time on his sailboat on Lake Michigan. He did most of his sailing on a 23-foot Ensign that he moored in Port Washington, later buying one of the first catamarans in the area. A member of the Port Washington Yacht Club, he served as commodore of the club in 1974.

He also took up windsurfing late in his life.

Mr. Smith was fascinated by nature and loved being outdoors.  After he retired, he found many outlets for his intellect and innate curiosity, volunteering more than 500 hours with the Milwaukee Public Museum’s paleontology department.

He went on several digs, including a 1987  trip to the Badlands of Montana where the group found the largest dinosaur skull ever found in the world to that point.

The group brought the skull and bones back to Milwaukee, where they assembled the dinosaur skeleton. Mr. Smith then helped design the scaffolding that supported the skeleton when it was exhibited.

 Mr. Smith is survived by his daughters Connie (Joe) Barr of Needham, Mass., Kristi Kokes of Grafton, Kerry Smith of Cedarburg, Rebecca (Les Levitt) Smith of San Jose, Calif., Patricia Smith of Appleton and Diana (Eliott) Libert of Des Plaines, Ill.; 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

 He was preceded in death by his wife Dorothy, parents Millard and Ethel Smith and sister Marilynn Callsen.

A memorial service for Mr. Smith will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at Mueller Funeral Home and Crematory in Grafton.

Visitation will be at the funeral home from 1 p.m. until the service.

Inurnment with military honors conducted by the Navy will be at St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery in Grafton immediately after the service.

A reception will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. July 10 at the Rose-Harms American Legion Hall in Grafton.

In lieu of flowers, memorials to Habitat for Humanity or Rawhide Boys Ranch are suggested.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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