William O. Smith, 78

William O. (“Bill”) Smith died on June 17, 2024, in Royal Oak, Michigan, shortly after experiencing a medical emergency while visiting family.

Bill was a true Baby Boomer, born in Greensburg on June 12, 1946, to William F. Smith and Ileen Solem Smith.  He was raised in Rushville, where he was an Eagle Scout, a drum major, and graduated from Rushville High School in 1964.

Bill attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where his mother grew up.  A business major, he also competed on the debate team and worked at KWLC, Luther College Radio, where he met the love of his life, Lynda Mills.  He graduated from college on May 19, 1968, and he and Lynda married that same day.

Shortly after college graduation, Bill was commissioned to serve in Headquarters Company at Fort Myer, Virginia, with the U.S. Army – 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the “The Old Guard,” which guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.  While serving in The Old Guard, Bill was on the detail that provided the red carpet at the Nixon White House for foreign leaders’ arrival ceremonies.  He was also an usher at President Dwight Eisenhower’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral’s heads of state door.

After his honorable discharge, Bill graduated from Indiana University-Indianapolis Law School in 1973, having spent evenings working as a school janitor while Lynda started her teaching career.  Bill then opened a private law practice in Greensburg in 1973 and continued his legal work helping people in various ways until he died.

Bill made an initial run for prosecutor in 1974, and although he didn’t win, he ended up becoming lifelong best friends with the man who beat him by a hair:  William H. Robbins, III.  Bill then was elected prosecutor for 24 years – 1987 to 2010 – the longest-serving prosecutor in Decatur County history.  He was a longtime member of the Democratic Party, the Decatur County Bar Association, and served as president of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

During his many decades as an active citizen of Decatur County, Bill served on countless nonprofit boards, including being a founding member of the Decatur County Community Foundation and serving on the boards of the Greensburg-Decatur County Library, Cincinnati Down Syndrome Association, Developmental Services, Inc., and the Decatur County Tourism Board.  He was a member of many civic organizations, including the Sons of Norway-Circle City Chapter, Decatur County Historical Society, and The Arc of Decatur County.

His extensive volunteer efforts included helping establish Meals on Wheels in the community, serving as a Legal Aid Volunteer, and coaching youth soccer, the high school speech team, and his daughter Ann’s Special Olympics basketball team.

In retirement, Bill enjoyed pursuing his many interests, most notably his passion for the history of the fugitive slave underground in Decatur County, which led him to board service with the Indiana Freedom Trails Association.  He wrote a book that helped establish the facts of this fascinating chapter in county history and conducted several well-attended speaking engagements on this topic.  Bill also successfully worked to secure historical markers about the Underground Railroad at the Courthouse and at Kingston Cemetery.

In 2022, Bill was recognized as one of Decatur County’s Bicentennial Top 100 citizens.  He was awarded membership in the Stephen Decatur Society by the Decatur County Community Foundation and volunteered significant time as a member of the American Legion Post 129’s Military Honor Guard, performing final ceremonies for fallen veterans in the community.

Anyone who knew Bill knew that he was a kind, fair, generous and loving man of varied interests and talents.  He was very proud of his Norwegian heritage and enjoyed the chance to travel there several times in his life with his family and dear friends.  He was exceptionally resourceful, a creative woodworker, and could fix almost anything.  Bill was a stellar attorney, but his true calling was being a legendary grandfather, and he enjoyed the chance to help care for his grandson who was named in his honor.  A perfect day in retirement for Bill was tinkering on a project or clearing brush at his 40-acre log cabin retreat “Lykkeland,” and then relaxing on the porch with Lynda over a cold beer as they watched deer in the meadow.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents and brother Franklin D. Smith.  He is survived by his wife Lynda, daughter Ann Smith, son Christopher William Smith and his wife Caroline Altman Smith, and his beloved grandson Julian William Smith of Huntington Woods, Michigan.  Bill also leaves behind his sister, Susan (Bruce Bryant) Pieper of Evansville, Indiana, and several nieces and nephews.

The family will host an open house funeral reception at Heritage Hill in Greensburg on Thursday, June 27th from 3 to 7 p.m., with a remembrance program at 7 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made either to the Arc of Decatur County Fund or the William and Lynda Smith Fund at the Decatur County Community Foundation.

Online condolences can be made to the family at www.gilliland-howe.com

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