Wilbert LeRoy Smith, 98, of Nixa, MO, passed on April 24, 2023. He was born December 20, 1924, at the farm home in Jackson Township, Clarke County, Iowa, to Claude V. and Maude Fern (Ewoldsen) Smith. The youngest of six children, he was nicknamed “Gup” by eldest brother, Ralph, and called “Buster” by his beloved mother.
Wilbert attained his education through 8th grade at Center Star rural school. In 1942 he graduated from Woodburn High School, Woodburn, Iowa.
On July 7, 1943 he enlisted in the US Army at Camp Dodge, Iowa. After basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, he was shipped to England and assigned to Company F, 116th Infantry, 29th Division as a mortar gunner. On June 6, 1944, he was part of the first wave to land on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. After successfully wading onto the beach, he was hit by shrapnel from an exploding artillery shell. He waded back into the surf and climbed aboard an LCI headed to England. Wilbert was taken to a hospital ship, treated for wounds, and transferred to 182nd General Hospital in England where he spent 48 days in recovery. In September 1944 he rejoined his unit in Brest, France, and fought alongside them, being wounded again. They reached the Elbe River, Germany in May 1945, and the war in Europe ended. Wilbert was discharged November 1, 1945 with two Purple Hearts and returned home to the farm. He was 20 years old.
Wilbert married Rosalie F. Bishop on June 24, 1951 in Des Moines, Iowa; they celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in 2022. They were the proud parents of five children: Sheila, Michael, Kendall, Susan and Shelly. Wilbert and Rosalie farmed until 1967 when they moved to Osceola, Iowa. After working for Steele Implement, Rindy’s Super Valu, Four Corner Market, and Clarke County Maintenance, in 1972 Wilbert was hired as Osceola Street Superintendent, a job he served well and faithfully until retiring in 1987. Wilbert and Rosalie initially relocated to Mountain Home, Arkansas. In 1993 they settled in Nixa, Missouri. Wilbert quickly became a fan of the SMSU/MSU Lady Bears. His favorite player became Jackie Stiles, the leading scorer of Div I women’s basketball. He celebrated his 90th birthday at an MSU game where he was personally greeted by Assistant Coach Stiles and honored at half-time for his birthday and military service. This was a thrilling highlight.
In 2001, Wilbert joined the New Generation Faith Family at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Springfield, Missouri. He was a faithful member and considered his classmates as family. He attended until his health prevented him from going.
A favorite pastime of Wilbert’s was watching the STL Cardinals baseball. He was a whiz at retaining stats on the players and enjoyed sharing his baseball knowledge with others. Wilbert was also a card shark at playing Cribbage. He could count his hand faster than anyone and would get annoyed if you didn’t learn to count as quickly as him. He was proud that he taught his kids to play and they in turn taught theirs.
Wilbert was preceded in death by parents, Claude and Maude Smith; son, Michael; daughter-in-law Stephanie Lemay; great-granddaughter Elia Gaumer; siblings Maxine (Clifford) Carson, Ralph (Bessie) Smith, Earnest (Laura) Smith, Edward (Irene) Smith, Louise (Mel) Fleener; sister-in-law Juanita (Donald) Bemis; nephews Gary Fleener and Wilbert L. Smith; niece Tonja Bemis. He is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Rosalie; son Kendall; daughters Sheila (Kevin) Stepko, Sue (Gary) Gaumer, and Shelly (John) Lamczyk. He was the proud grandfather of Matt (Alex) Stepko, Kesha Null, Kendra (Zayne) Sanson, Brandi (Bryan) Gripka, Jacob Gaumer, Gregory (Chenille) Gaumer, Nikki Gaumer, John Lamczyk, Krystelle (Patrick) Carey, Blake Lamczyk, and Brett (Nicole) Lamczyk, 25 great-grandchildren, and 3 great- great-grandchildren, plus special friends Garry and Penny Glossip.
Wilbert’s family will greet friends on Tuesday, May 2, 2023 at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Springfield MO from 2:00 – 3:00 PM. Memorial service will follow at 3:00 PM with Pastor Carl Rees officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Adams Funeral Home, Nixa, MO.
Graveside service with interment will be held in Woodburn, IA at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to Grand Oaks Baptist Mission Center, 2854 Grand St, Springfield MO 65802.