Francis Max Smith "Smitty"

January 27, 1924 - October 17, 2015
Portage, MI



Monday, October 26, 2015
11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EDT
Prairie Baptist Church
11210 East PQ Avenue
Scotts, MI 49088


Monday, October 26, 2015
12:00 PM EDT
Prairie Baptist Church
11210 East PQ Avenue
Scotts, MI 49088


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Kairos Dwelling
2945 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
(269) 381-3688
Driving Directions
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Wedel's Nursery Florist & Garden Center
5020 Texas Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 345-1195
Driving Directions

VanderSalm's Flipse
1120 S. Burdick
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(800) 232-7134
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Francis Max Smith “Smitty” was born on January 27, 1924 in Kokomo, Indiana to Caleb & Nettie (Graham) Smith. He passed away peacefully at Kairos Dwelling on October 17, 2015.

Smitty grew up on a farm in Scotts, Michigan on 29th Street. Every year on his birthday he got another cow to milk. Oh how he loved them, and everyone had a name. He took on a lot of responsibilities and he truly became a “man” at the age of 13. He grew up during the Great Depression and learned at a very young age the value of a dollar and also the value of hard work. He was a very gifted artist from the age of 10 and throughout his life made beautiful artwork. He was also an exceptional writer and poet.

Smitty graduated from Scotts High School in 1942. He voluntarily enlisted in the US Navy (1943-1946). He went to Northwestern University Naval Radio School and became a 2nd Class Petty Officer Radioman. He served part of his time in New York City as a naval radio operator. During this time he received the most devastating news of his life. His youngest brother, Rex who was serving in the Marine Corps and with whom he slept with every night as a child was shot between the eyes by a Japanese sniper. He was only 18 years of age, and sadly his remains never returned home. Smitty was then ordered to the island of Samar in the Philippines. He received and transmitted the last completed radio message from the USS Indianapolis just hours before it sank, giving the ship its berthing position for when it arrived in Leyte Gulf. It was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945. Of the 1,196 men on board, only 316 survived. All these years Smitty has carried on his precious heart tremendous guilt, because he was not able to save them.

When Smitty received his honorable discharge he came home. He then got the heartbreaking news of the death of his best friend, Kenny Snyder. Smitty, being the strong man that he was, started to rebuild his life. He met a beautiful woman named Charatias “Rita” Riley whom he often called “Miss Shredded Wheat”. She won not only his heart, but she also won the title of Blossom Queen in Stevensville, Michigan. They became united in marriage on December 29, 1948.

Smitty had a great passion for history and wanted to become a history teacher. He enrolled at the Western Michigan School of Education, but due to the need to support his growing family, he left school. He was offered a job at the Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital where he was employed for 31 years. He was a tenant nurse taking care of 200 patients in a little building called “The Burns Cottage”. He retired in 1981.

During his retirement, he devoted his life to the memory of the lost crew members of the USS Indianapolis, his beloved brother Rex Smith and best friend Kenny Snyder. Smitty helped to establish a permanent memorial to the USS Indianapolis and its crew in the ship’s namesake city; dedicated on July 30, 1995. Smitty donated his 1968 Oldsmobile convertible that was raffled off and raised over $50,000 to establish the USS Indianapolis National Memorial. Smitty being the great man that he was thought he needed to do more. Throughout his whole life, Smitty was determined he was going to make something great come from something so devastating, which was the loss of the two precious young lives nobody ever knew about, Rex Smith and Kenny Snyder. He was deeply committed to let the world know to never forget about these two unsung heroes from Scotts, Michigan. In 2013, Smitty established the Rex & Ken Forgotten Heroes Pride of Scotts Scholarship donating $100,000 to KRESA to benefit the students of Climax-Scotts Community Schools.

The last two years of his life Smitty was on kidney dialysis due to diabetes and most recently was diagnosed with tongue cancer. Throughout all of his struggles he never complained of them. He remained very grounded, strong, funny and very optimistic. Every day he loved to walk around the block with his little dog Honey Bun. At times it was difficult, but he was one determined man.

Smitty was a true walking history book. He shared his passion about history with everyone he met. His mind was incredible. He was one of most selfless people that walked this earth. To everyone who knew him, he was their hero. Smitty came from the Greatest Generation Ever and he was a true warrior who fought all the way to the end. Please don’t ever forget Smitty and the incredible difference he made in this world.

Smitty is finally free and he is in the loving hands of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He will be greatly missed, because he truly was a one in a million. When Smitty left us, Heaven’s gates opened wide and Jesus said “Well done, my Son”.

Visitation for Smitty will be held on Monday October 26, 2015 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at Prairie Baptist Church; 11210 East PQ Avenue, Scotts where a funeral service will be held immediately following at 12:00 noon. Burial with full military honors will be at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Smitty was preceded in death by his wife Charatias “Rita” in 1994, his brothers Herbert, Forest and Warren Rex, his sisters Donis Johnson and Vivian Watson, as well as a great grandson Shane. He is survived by his most beloved and best friend, his little dog “Honey Bun”, daughters Sharon Fee, Debra (Jeff) Bretoi and Patricia Smith, 5 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, his nephews Bob Hess, Dale Smith, Dan Watson and Steve Smith as well as many other nieces & nephews, great-nieces & nephews, cousins and friends. Visit Smitty’s memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a memory and sign his guest book. Memorial donations may be made to Kairos Dwelling.