Jim Smith, one of few remaining Charles City WW II veterans, dead at 99
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]
Former Charles City attorney, community supporter, philanthropist and one of the last few remaining veterans of World War II, Jim Smith, has died.
Smith, who was 99, died at at the 9th Street Chautauqua nursing home. His obituary is here. No services are currently planned.
Other local WW II veterans still living are Marvin Emmel and Robert Calvert. Bob Thomson still maintains a home in Charles City, but lives primarily in the Twin Cities.
Smith moved from Grinnell to Charles City with his family as a toddler, and other than time in the service and while away at college and law school, he has lived here all his life. He and his wife, Virginia, who died in 2016, were longtime community supporters and benefactors.
Most recently, Smith pledged $100,000 in a matching challenge grant to help raise the money that led to the Milwaukee Road Railroad Depot being saved and moved to its new location. Smith said at the time that he had memories of leaving from the depot when he enlisted, and taking the train to Oberlin, Ohio, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
Smith saw action in the Pacific in World War II, enlisting after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was commissioned as an ensign, then shipped out in 1943 and would see battle on LCS-31, a landing craft support ship whose duty was to support troops landing on island beaches, including at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
After the war ended he was discharged as a lieutenant junior grade, then returned home and finished college. He married Virginia in 1947 and they moved to Iowa City while Smith earned his law degree from the University of Iowa.
His long career as an attorney included a time as the Charles City city attorney, including the years after the 1968 tornado that destroyed much of the town and required significant civic and legal work to restore the community.
Smith also had a long history with the Charles City Rotary Club, having joined in 1951 and holding the position as its longest local member for some time. Smith traveled extensively, including overseas, for Rotary events, and made it a practice to visit Rotary Club meetings when he was traveling for other reasons. Long-time members remember fondly Smith playing the piano and leading the club in songs at meetings.