Ansel Smith - August 12, 2010
Memorial services for 90-year-old Ansel Smith were held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010, at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Madison, Minn. Rev. Steven Frank officiated at the service.
Special music was provided by Eunice Mork, organist and a duet by Aaron Hamilton and Ellen Smith. Military Honors were the Madison V.F.W. and American Legion. Interment was in St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery.
Ansel Marcellus Smith was the third of four children born to the union of Jessie William Smith and Almetta Estella (Van deVenter) Smith. He was born in a two-room tent and woodframe home with a board floor in the Blanche community in the sandhills of Chase county Nebraska on June 11, 1920, and departed this life in Madison, Minn. on Aug. 6, 2010 at the age of 90 years, 1 month, and 24 days.
For decades Ansel carried a photograph of his birthplace in his wallet. Ansel was preceded in death by both of his parents; an infant sister, Jesse Jean, of Imperial, Neb.; another sister, Leola Moody, of Wauneta, Neb.; and a stillborn daughter, Jeannie Marie, who is buried in Austin, Minn.
In 1925 the family moved to town in Imperial, Neb. where Ansel graduated from Chase County High School in 1938.
While in high school Ansel became quite an accomplished musician. He played the piano in church and is thought by many to be the best trumpet player Imperial, Neb. has ever produced having received a high superior in state competition. After graduation from high school Ansel began his career in retail sales at the J.C. Penney store in Imperial.
Ansel was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and received his basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. Ansel often was called on to play the piano at chapel services during his years in the army. As a Technician Fourth Grade Ansel was part of the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion that was attached to the 7th Armored Division. His primary duties during the war were radio repair and the stringing of miles of communication wire. Ansel was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service. After serving for over three years in such places as northern France, Belgium, Ardennes, Rhineland and near the Battle of the Bulge, Ansel arrived back home in Imperial, Neb. on Nov. 19, 1945, just eight hours after his father had passed away.
Upon discharge from the army Ansel attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., where he earned a Bachelor degree in accounting in three years.
On Sept. 12, 1948 he married Cornelia Louise Skibbe, who was a nursing major at the University of Colorado. The ceremony was performed at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kan. To this union were born three children: Jeannie Marie, who is buried in Austin, Minn., Mark Smith of Palm Desert, Calif., and Ann Louise Smith of Bloomington, Minn.
Upon graduation from the University of Colorado in 1949, Ansel worked for an accounting firm in North Platte, Neb., and then continued his career in retail sales at J.C. Penney stores in Denison, Iowa and Austin, Minn.
Having an entrepreneurial streak in him, and wanting to call his own shots, Ansel moved his family to Madison, Minn. in August of 1959 and opened a Skogmo store.
After a few years of many long hours and mediocre rewards, Ansel decided that he wanted more freedom and autonomy in the operation of his business and set on a course to buy out his financial backer and rename the store Smith’s Department Store. This business flourished until Ansel sold it and decided to retire in 1987.
Upon the sale of his business Ansel wrote with characteristic humility “I deeply appreciate you permitting this store to be a part of the Madison business community since 1959. Please accept my gratitude and thanks to each family and person I have come to know as customers at our store.” During those happy years operating Smith’s Department Store Ansel was probably never happier than when he was on a Canadian fishing trip with the likes of Jerry Haverberg, Ned Hull, Leon Quilitz, Jim Hoover, Scotty Kuehl, Bob Hansen and a few others.
The church has always been an important part of Ansel’s life. Having been raised as a Methodist, Ansel became a Lutheran upon his marriage to Connie. Both have been members at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Madison, Minn. since 1959. Ansel has held numerous church offices at St. John’s and taught the adult Bible study for about 10 years.
Surviving Ansel are his wife of 62 years, Connie Smith, of Madison, Minn.; his son, Mark Smith, of Palm Desert, Calif., and his daughter, Ann Louise Smith, of Bloomington, Minn. He is also survived by a sister, Jan Blackledge, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and three grandchildren: Andrea Resales Hamilton, of Goodyear, Ariz., Aaron Bosales Smith of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Antonio Rosales Smith of Irvine, Calif.. Also surviving are five great grandchildren.