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Prison chaplain, pastor and gifted Bible teacher; lover of street rods and rock-n-roll; fierce advocate for the poor, the underrepresented and the voiceless; husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend: John E. Smith, 72, of 129 Oakmont Cemetery Road, Ridgway, died unexpectedly on Friday, October 4, 2019 at UPMC Montefiore, in Pittsburgh PA.
John was born in Bellefonte, Pa on December 3, 1946, to the late Bernard and Kathryn (Scutella) Smith. He spent the majority of his life in Ridgway Pa, graduating from RHS in 1964. He married Irene C. Feronti of Johnsonburg Pa, on July 26, 1969, who survives. He earned an AS in Business Administration from Penn State Dubois in 1975 and graduated with the Highest Distinction.
He was employed at Allegheny Color Corporation as manager of administration for 31 years, and after retirement, served as a volunteer chaplain at the Elk County Prison for 12 years, where he conducted Bible studies and Sunday services. In addition, he became an ordained minister and worked as a contract chaplain at SCI Forest Maximum Security State Prison in Marienville, Pa, for the next 10 years. During that time, he also pastored churches in Ludlow, Johnsonburg, Kane, and Dubois.
An active and engaged civic leader, John was elected to the Ridgway Borough Council in 1980, where he served for 5 years; was on the Ridgway Civil Service Board where he served for 8 years; was Chairman for 30 of the 37 years that he served on the Salvation Army Service Unit Board; and was a charter member of the Good Samaritan Food Bank as treasurer, then served as Chair for 30 years. He was honored by Elk Co. Commissioners for his 10 years of service in the Elk County Prison, and in 2007, was honored by Elk County Chamber of Commerce as Volunteer of the Year. In addition, he was a volunteer Meals on Wheels driver for many years. He was a member of the National Street Rod Association, the Pennsylvania Prison Chaplains Association, the American Prison Chaplains Association, and Western PA Prison Outreach Ministry. A drummer in a variety of local bands for 22 years, John served as Vice President of the American Federation of Musicians Union, Local 317 for 10 of his 20 years that he was a member. His service to these organizations is even more meaningful when you consider just how much HE HATED MEETINGS.
Born again in 1981, John had a passion to share God’s love by leading the hopeless to a living HOPE in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. His faith was always represented by action: he took newly released inmates to WalMart to buy them a winter hat and coat, then invited them to his house for Thanksgiving. He drove hundreds of meals to shut-ins and then sat with them while they ate. He fiercely advocated for the safety of the residents of West Main Street after the train derailment in 1978 and didn’t stop fighting the Chessie System until the speed of their trains was reduced from 60mph to 10mph. His love was big, his gum supply for kids in church seemingly endless, and his enthusiastic wave to cars on Montmorenci Road brightened the days of many passing motorists. He also loved studying the history of rock and roll, and its early pioneers.
In addition to his wife of 50 years, John is survived by two daughters, Michelle “Shelley” (Dan) Noyes, of Houghton, NY; and Cindy (Shawn) Whitaker of Ridgway; 3 grandchildren, Sadie Noyes, Acadia Whitaker and Everett (The Hammer) Whitaker; and many beloved nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents; his daughter, Stacey “Tate” Smith, and his brother, Bernard Smith. His favorite Bible verse was John 6: 37.
A Memorial Service for John E. Smith will be held at the Awakening Alliance Church in Ridgway on Friday, October 11, at 11:00 AM. Officiating will be Pastor Brad Brunner of St. Mary's Faith Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Oakmont Cemetery. Visitation will be on Thursday, October 10, at Thompson Funeral Home from 2-4, and 6-8. Memorials can be made to the Good Samaritan Food Bank of Ridgway, or to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Share your online condolences at thompsonfuneralhomepa.com.