On July 1, 1947, in Rayville, Louisiana, Sam Smith began his life’s journey. He had an infectious personality, and within minutes in his presence he would have you laughing or entertained. Sam inherited his common sense thinking from his father, Oscar Sr. and his memory for detail from his mother, Jesse Mae.
Sam always spoke fondly of his childhood in El Centro, California. He found safety in this small town, that supported adventure, mischievousness and a strong foundation in family, church and friends. He often would share stories of his high school basketball days, pitching watermelons during the 100-degree summers in the Imperial Valley, and fishing at Sunbeam Lake.
Bid whist and dominoes were the vehicle of lots of laughs and good times. However, winning was never Sam’s goal (many of you will agree), but was an opportunity to be with friends and family, and wait for someone to say the words “your mama”. That’s all Sam needed to hear, and he would move from playing cards to playing the dozens. If Sam was hosting, the backdrop was always great music and food. He spent hours preparing some of the best gumbo and jambalaya you would ever taste.
His Kappa Alpha Psi brothers could tell you stories. Some of his greatest times happened through this fraternal connection. Attending frat conferences, performing “Lady Soul” as a member of the Temptations, golf tournaments, and lots of barbeques produced many brothers from other mothers.
Sam’s children, Marie Antoinette and Dimetrius (from his marriage to Vivian) and Dorian (from his marriage to Arlene) have become amazing adults and have forged strong bonds as brothers and sister. Sam was proud of each of them and who they had become. Annual Thanksgiving visits to El Centro had two goals, to eat some of his mom’s wonderful food and spend time with his children and family.
Sam enjoyed traveling and sports. One of his best family vacations was a visit to Jamaica. After Sam had some mannish water, you couldn’t tell him he wasn’t Jamaican. He called everyone “mon” for years after that visit. Sam was a die-heart Lakers fan and looked forward to Sundays attending the Charger games with Dorian as perennial season ticket holders prior to the team’s relocation to Los Angeles.
Sam had a varied career consisting of time with Douglas Aircraft, the County of San Diego and Neighborhood House Association (NHA). He was an administrator, probation officer and program specialist. He often spoke fondly of his work with Head Start at NHA; he had a heart for this program that served kids.
He is preceded in death by his father Oscar Smith, Sr. (1999) and his brother Oscar Smith, Jr. (2019). He is survived by his mother, Jesse Mae Smith; brother, Hilton Smith Sr.; sister, Mayandandra Douglas; sons, Dorian Smith and Dimetrius Smith; daughter, Marie Antoinette Smith; and a host of grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
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