Memorial Day without ‘Papa John’

Saturday, May 23, 2020
John Smotherman in his final Memorial Day parade.
Submitted photo

The family of the late John Smotherman will memorialize their loved one and World War II veteran on Monday for the first time as he passed away last August at age 91.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, only about 300,000, out of millions of U.S. World War II veterans who served, are alive in 2020.

Bedford County’s own, “Papa John,” as he was known to his local family, was born Sept. 8, 1927, in Marshall County to the late Joseph Palmer and Minnie Estelle Ragsdale Smotherman. He was said to be a devoted Christian, “amazing father,” and “loving husband” to his wife of 68 years, Frances.

Happy memories

Smotherman will be remembered especially for serving his country in the U.S. Army — a stint he was extremely proud of until his passing, family note.

The local veteran was also proud of his three daughters, Jackie (David Lockwood) Smith of Normandy, Shelia LeDere of Bell Buckle, and Annette (Paul) Bowling of Wartrace; as well his 7 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren, and 3 great great grandchildren. Also surviving are his a sister and a brother.

His daughter Jackie recalls how happy her father was to have served his country. She remembers him talking about Germany a lot; he would talk about places where he and other soldiers camped during the war.

“He remembered lots of details about the people, the terrain and things that happened,” she recalled. “He also talked about the little kids and how the troops gave them candy from their meals.”

Different times

With tears in her eyes, Jackie said her “hero” will be greatly missed and it just wasn’t the same during the Veterans Day parade without him. But they have many fond memories and photos which they will share with future generations; he was a part of history.

“He remained friends with a lot of his Army buddies. In fact, they started a special reunion. Daddy loved being in the Army. He loved that he got to travel and see places that he thought he was never be able to see. He was even able to speak some German.”

As the child of an American veteran-one now being memorialized-Smith requests that everyone remember all military veterans, every day, for their sacrifices made to protect the country.

“It was an honor to know my Dad,” she said. “He’s gone now, but never forgotten.”