More than education, more than experience, more than training, Charles Norman Smith’s level of resilience and tenacity would determine his success in life. Born to Mattie and Harold Smith on April 9, 1934, the youngest of five children; two sisters and two brothers.
Despite the obstacles of his childhood, Charles made the mature choice at the young age of 16 to enlist in the United States Navy. This proved to be the catalyst that would lay the foundation for discipline, determination, and resilience. While in the Navy, Charles served in the Korean War, received a certification in metalsmiths, and acquired his GED.
Charles continued his education at the University of Kansas in 1956, majoring in Engineering. He also became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. While at K.U., he befriended basketball legend, Wilt Chamberlain, who was known to ride home with Charles on several occasions.
Temporarily delaying his educational goals Charles obtained employment with the
United States Postal Service, as a Maintenance Engineer. During this time, he met Sarah Lena Hatcher, on a hayride at a church function. In 1957 they married, and to this union, four children were born. Charles and Sarah provided their children with experiences that would later develop their passions in life. Whatever knowledge he gained as a creative, avid reader, and world traveler he made every space his classroom. Some of you may have found yourself in his classroom.
Charles became a very skilled craftsman and shared his skills by teaching carpentry techniques at the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) training school. Using these skills, he became a young entrepreneur, launching Dynamic Construction Co. where he remodeled kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. Many Kansas Citians benefited from his remodel designs. A brother of the well-known H&R Block family was also a customer. While the company was still young, Charles was invited to be an investor. He declined, maybe his only regret amongst many other successes.
Charles continued his passion for educating when he was employed by the Kansas
City Missouri Public Schools as an electronics instructor. During this time, he obtained an associate degree in 1976, then later completed his B.S. degree at Ottawa University in 1982. He returned to the engineering field which led to employment with Armco Steel, General Motors, and KCP&L.
His love for travel began in the Navy, fueled by his promise to Sarah to vacation every year, which led to living the “house on the lake life” and finally camping in their RV. Scouting and camping were a big part of the Smith household. Later Charles joined the Holiday Ramblers RV Club. After retirement, they traveled to Mesa, Arizona every winter. Many friendships were developed, destinations discovered, and new adventures were explored.
Another passion was his grandchildren. They would spend lots of time together, going to the lake, ski trips, and vacationing in the RV. He was a very proud grandpa as he watched them become successful adults. They are a testimony to the lessons learned from their grandpa.
Charles Smith, 89, passed away on October 16, 2023, at Cross Creek Assisted Living Care in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He was preceded in death by his parents, four siblings, and wife, Sarah. He is survived by his daughter, Rhonda Cole, (Robert) of Kansas City, Mo., and his sons, Charles Smith Jr. of Lee’s Summit, Mo.; Rodney Smith (Taylor) of Lee’s Summit, Mo; and David Smith (Nicole) of Frisco, Texas. He also leaves behind nine grandchildren: Aaron Cole, Brittany Cole, Brian Smith, Samuel Smith, Kayla Smith, Nathan Smith, Danielle Smith, David Smith Jr., and Olivia Smith, four great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, family, and friends.
Charles left a great legacy… a love for learning, a love for travel and instilled in us a commitment to excellence in our endeavors.