TUMBLING SHOALS Dr. Michael Gene Smith was born July 9, 1950, in El Paso Texas to Dr. Vestal Beecher Smith and Frances “Tad” Melodean Fisher. Following his mother’s early death, his father married Mary Smith, who together raised Mike and his three brothers. He grew up in Marked Tree, Arkansas, where he played drums in a band and graduated high school with honors. He attended college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for three years and was a member of the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. After his Junior year in college, he matriculated at the University of Arkansas College of Medicine, where he graduated in 1975. He served his country overseas in the armed forces, based out of Istanbul Turkey in 1976-77. Upon his return to the United States, he married Glenda Ross, the mother of his first three children, and completed his residency in Anesthesiology at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. He was honorably discharged from active duty Armed Forces as a Major in 1983.
Mike practiced medicine as an Anesthesiologist for many years at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville and also served as faculty for the nurse anesthetist program. He became an avid fan of the Tennessee Volunteers while still remaining a rabid Arkansas Razorback in pride and practice. He spent his time in Tennessee as a true Renaissance man as he enjoyed his lifelong passions of gardening, genealogy, woodworking, literature, movies, and as always, being a father to four children. He also kept his love of music and rock-and-roll alive as a drummer in The Snooze Brothers, who played in many locally famous venues such as Ella Guru’s, the World’s Fair Park and Manhattan’s in the Old City. He retired to Tumbling Shoals, Arkansas in 2000 with his youngest son, to fully explore his many interests.
Mike suffered a massive stroke in his home in Arkansas in February 2003 that left him paralyzed on the right side of his body and also severely affected his ability to speak. Despite this significant setback, Mike attended an intensive speech therapy clinic at the University of Michigan’s Aphasia Program (UMAP) in Ann Arbor, MI. This experience was pivotal in helping Mike develop new tools for effective communication and acclimate to his new condition. He moved from Tumbling Shoals to Gentry, AR next to his brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Cheryl, where he lived with his daughter Mary Helen. Mike volunteered at the Gentry Public Library where he computerized the entire card catalog. During this time, he was acknowledged in an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for volunteering “hundreds of hours annually” at the library where they fittingly reported that despite his difficulties with speech, “His kind smile conveys what words cannot”.
Mike also lived in Maryville, TN, with his daughter, Julia, before moving to Maui, HI, with his son, Michael. During his time in Hawaii, he volunteered at the Maui Botanic Garden, raised orchids and spent time with family. In 2011, Mike moved back to Maryville and into the Shannondale Retirement community where he enjoyed much autonomy, a welcoming community, and a peaceful home for many years. During his time there, he developed many close relationships, enjoyed doing puzzles, enthusiastically decorated his home for holidays, communicated his work in genealogy, watched/collected movies and spent much time with family. Mike passed away suddenly from natural causes in his home, on Wednesday, August 1, 2018, at the age of 68.
He was preceded in death by father and mother, Dr. Vestal Beecher Smith and Frances “Tad” Melodean Fisher, and survived by his loving step-mother Mary Smith, brothers Ronald Smith, Stephen (Cheryl) Smith, and Dr. Vestal (Amber) Smith, Jr., his children Mary Helen (Brendan) Smith, Julia (Adam) Spannaus, Michael (Holly) Smith and Samuel Smith, his grandchildren Maxwell Smith, Bryan Spannaus and Oliver Spannaus, nieces and nephews Ruston Smith, Emily Smith, Corbin Smith, Garrett (Becky) Smith, Bethany Smith and great-nephew Otto Smith. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University of Michigan Aphasia Program at https://mari.umich.edu/ucll/umap/donate/ in his name.
Services were held Saturday, August 11, at the Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe, followed by a private family burial. A gathering of friends will be held in Maryville, TN on August 25. Arrangements by Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe. www.SmithFamilyCares.com.