National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Age: 68
Year of Death: 2004

Robert L. Smith

Submitted by his grandson

Robert Lee Smith was many things. He was a reliable father and grandfather‚ a loving husband‚ and thoughtful neighbor and friend.. Robert had four main things that he loved in his life. First was his love for God and his family‚ after that was his love of farming and his passion for helping others.

Once when Elson Hood‚ a friend of Robert’s‚ had gotten down and wasn’t able to plow and get his garden ready for the quickly approaching planting season‚ Robert got up early‚ loaded up his Ford Tractor and plow and went to Elson’s that morning and had his field plowed and ready before Mr. Hood even had a chance to get up and tell Robert thanks. Robert just loaded his equipment up as soon as he got done and he went on back to go work on some stuff around the house.

That was just the way that Robert was. He didn’t do anything for the recognition‚ he either did it because he loved doing it or for the simple fact that it was something that had to get done. This story also illustrates another trait of Robert that isn’t seen too much these days and that was Robert’s willingness to put others ahead of himself. It was this characteristic that would ultimately claim the life of this man who had become a pillar in his community and a rock for his family.

Robert was a crucial member of the West Shelby Volunteer Fire Department. He had been a devoted member of the department since 1982. He was as content as ever when he was driving the fire truck to a call somewhere knowing that he was doing his part in making this cruel‚ harsh world a little bit better by doing all he could do to help out whoever it was that was in need. No matter how big or small the call was if Robert was able to help‚ then you could bet the farm that he was going to be there. So was the case on the afternoon of March 21‚ 2004.

At around noon‚ he and his wife were headed to deliver a round bale of hay to a friend of theirs who lived just a few miles up the road. Before they made it to Dr. Riggins’ house with the hay‚ Robert’s fire pager went off. Robert turned his truck around‚ went on back to his house‚ dropped his wife off and went to the fire call. When Robert got to the scene there were already a couple of firemen at work trying to put out the rapidly spreading brush fire. Robert went to help as soon as he got there. He got out of his truck‚ grabbed a rake from the bed and started doing all that he could. Robert started to walk back to the truck. Those there saw him take a few steps toward the truck and then collapse. Members of the Rescue unit were immediately there by his side and tried to revive him.

Later‚ at the hospital‚ it was found that his death was caused by a severe cardiac arrest. The fire was originally started by the stupidity of someone burning a brush pile when there was a no-burn policy in effect. Nonetheless‚ Robert was willing to and did give his life simply because he hated to see anyone get hurt period‚ even if the person that he was trying to keep safe was also the cause.

Robert was forced to drop out of school in order to take care of his family. Granted‚ he didn’t have all the book smarts that others his age had‚ but his wisdom was like that of Solomon’s. Robert came from an era and culture in which lawyers were obsolete. As long as you had a man’s handshake and his word‚ then you had more than enough to justify a binding agreement. He was undoubtedly the best role model that there could have been and his memory and legacy will live on in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing and befriending him.

Robert is survived by his wife‚ Pat‚ his four children Mike‚ Donna‚ Pam and Steve along with grandchildren and great-grand children. All will miss him till they meet again.

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  1. Hello, I just wanted to write a little message expressing my condolences of your loss. Mr. Smith sounded like a wonderful and caring man. There are not many men out there these days that have the same kind of commitment to helping others unselfishly. I would also like to say that this memorial written about your grandfather was extremely moving and very eloquent. You were really able to express what kind of man your grandfather was. I am sure he is up in heaven looking down at all his family with great pride and love. Best wishes to your family. Pam Arrant

    – Pam Arrant