Allen Dale Smith

March 27, 1938 ~ June 20, 2018 (age 80)

Allen Dale Smith



Allen Dale Smith passed from this life on June 20, 2018, aged 80. He was born on March 27, 1938, in Lindsay, California, to Isham Payton Smith and Ethel Bessie White Smith, the fifth child and first boy, and immediately became the apple of his mother’s eye. With great generosity, his four older sisters did not begrudge Dale the position of little prince of the family, nor was he toppled by the arrival of four more children, two sisters and two brothers.


The family underwent great hardship in the closing years of the Depression and throughout the war years, suffering extreme poverty and the peripatetic ways of their feckless father, who moved them in an unceasing circuit of California, Texas (where his father was from), and Oklahoma (his mother). Dale picked cotton alongside the entire family from a tender age and did whatever other jobs came to hand, as they moved from abandoned house to shack to labor camp to railroad housing as his father worked brief stints. At times they lived in their car; at times they had no heat, or lived for two weeks off a sack of potatoes. Dale famously found his way home from Kansas City at the age of six, trekking for three days to reach the safety of his mother after his father left him behind in a bar crawl (not an isolated incident). His intrepid nature, intelligence, wit, and pragmatism served him well throughout his life as he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps and took on the role of man of the house at the age of 12, after he knocked his daddy down for raising fists to his mama and ran him off. Called before a court soon thereafter, when his lack of driving privileges was exposed by an automobile accident (not his fault), the judge ordered the bailiff to get the boy a license as he had a family to feed.


Dale obtained security for the family when he was 14, becoming the trusted right-hand man of an alfalfa farmer in Bakersfield, California, which brought with it a nice little house and, by their own efforts, a large vegetable garden. But forgoing the farmer’s pleas to marry his daughter and annex the adjoining farm to create an empire, Dale struck out on his own at 18 and landed at the borax mine in Boron, California, finding a new home for his family in Red Mountain as soon as he could afford it. When his lively little sister, LaVerne, dragged him to church in nearby Johannesburg, he first set eyes on the love of his life, Carol Jean Muma, who proved immune to his charms through four proposals, eventually accepting the fifth, as she regretfully let go her dream of college (for she came from an astonishingly similar background of poverty, nine children, and a ne’er-do-well father) and realized a good bet when she saw it. They married in 1959, a week after Dale turned 21.


Two little girls, Cammie and Kirsten, followed in quick succession, with the third, Marnie, arriving eight years later, and although you might think Dale would be somewhat cowed by a household of women (even their pets were female), he managed to hold his own. His great hospitality and genial good humor found a perfect foil in Carol’s wry counterpoint, and their life together was marked by love, laughter, and the ordinary joys of a generally happy family.


Dale moved them from the desolate Mojave Desert to the fertile crescent of the Willamette Valley in Oregon in 1974, where he began a new life as a maintenance technician at the Albany Paper Mill. In their four years there, Dale helped a number of his former coworkers obtain jobs and relocate to Oregon as the borax mine in California suffered through a strike and many were put out of work. In 1978, Dale accepted a new job with Georgia Pacific in Woodland, Maine, troubleshooting a failing paper mill there and restoring it to productivity as he rose to become the head of maintenance and engineering (which required a quick night school course to master engineering), before moving on to Zachary, Louisiana, to do the same. They returned home to Oregon in 1985 and he resumed work at the paper mill, albeit a bit higher up the rung, before his early retirement in 1997 at the age of 59 (feeling he’d worked enough by then) and their subsequent move over the mountains to Central Oregon.


After helming the First Baptist Church in Prineville through a hiatus in leadership, Dale felt called to become a minister in his “retirement” and pastored small churches in Paulina and Alfalfa, bringing his positive drive, zest for life, and spiritual leadership to the small congregations. He retired again four years ago as his declining health began to impair his strength and stamina.


Dale was resolute and courageous in his final illness, gracefully entertaining the many visitors who came to pay tribute to a man who helped so many throughout his life as a matter of course. His charisma and joie de vivre inspired, warmed, and welcomed all who came into his orbit, and he will be greatly missed, most especially by his family, who consider themselves enormously blessed and grateful to have lived in the embrace of an extraordinary man who lived an ordinary life.


Dale was predeceased in death by his father; his mother; four sisters, Ola Belle, Leone, Leila, and Donna; and brother Teddy. He is survived by his wife, Carol; his three daughters, Camille Smith, Kirsten Smith, and Marnie Fordham; sisters LaVerne Ramos and Sally Hathaway and brother Robert Smith; six grandchildren, Ashley Pomerleau, Allen and Amanda Deane, Catriona Smith, and Beckett and Zadie Fordham; seven great-grandchildren; and a number of nephews and nieces who loved him dearly.


A memorial service will be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Prineville on Saturday, July 14, at 2:00 PM and all are invited to attend.


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