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The life and experiences of one man who persevered through many disappointments, losses and successes!
George Ernest Smitman, Jr. was born and raised in Oakland, Calif.
As an only child, he would build model airplanes after his school work and chores were done. He always loved the idea of flying.
In late 1942, at age 18, he joined the Navy and was selected for officer training. He was graduated from Saint Mary’s Academy in 1943 and was commissioned.
He was sent to flight school, where he excelled and was chosen to serve as a flight instructor. Quickly, his dreams were answered and he became a combat pilot during World War II. He exited the Navy when the war was finished, but he continued his service and became a reservist in 1945 and worked as a civilian back home in Oakland.
George met and married Bette V. Nelson of San Francisco, Calif., and had children.
He was recalled to active duty for the Korean War when his reserve squadron was called up, and he stayed on active duty after that for a while— from about 1952 until 1964. During this time he also ran the guided missile development program for the Navy at Point Magu during the time between the Korean War and West Pac/ Viet Nam preparedness.
When he left the Navy, he worked for Holmes and Narver on Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands for a year or so, after which he moved his family to Woodland Hills, Calif., because the Holmes and Narver office was in Los Angeles.
He never wanted his family to live in a large city, so the suburbs were always sought. That was definitely in the fall of 1963. As an office worker, he left Holmes and Narver in 1964 and he and his wife began a craft/hobby shop in a small town in California to reacquaint the population with their abilities and imagination. Unfortunately, the town was too small and the shop closed.
His wife died in 1966, before his family moved to Denver, Colo., for his employment with United Airlines as a flight instructor. This move was more difficult and challenging for a single grieving dad of children ranging in age of 11 to 18. Shortly after the move to Colorado, his eldest child returned to California.
George and his family were overwhelmed by sadness and unfamiliarity of much change. Now in his 40s, he was very active in skiing the slopes of Colorado and the Swiss Alps and lots of worldwide travel.
After many years with United Airlines, he joined the group of laid-off employees and once again sought employment in the field of air travel.
In 1973, he married Peggy Kier, formerly of Rangely, Colo., and they moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where he was employed by Middle East Airlines as a flight instructor again. They visited their children in the United States several times, had many great vacations to several countries before the Lebanese Civil War made it impossible to remain living in Beirut.
Not accustomed to war on land, they were able to escape through a frightening and risky hotel visit in 1976. Fortunately, with his airline expertise, he became a flight instructor and airport planner for Saudi Arabia Airlines, and they moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Peggy was diagnosed with emphysema.
In 1982, King Saud told him the Saudi Arabian calendar indicated he was 60 years old and required to retire. Now, as a retired caregiver he moved back to the United States and became a farmer/rancher and close neighbor of the community airport.
On a 50-acre ranch in Paris, Tenn., he restored and remodeled a large two-story house. After raising cattle and harvesting wheat for a short period, they moved to Rangely, Colo., Peggy’s childhood home.
Peggy died in 1999, after many years of deteriorating health. She is buried in the Rangely Cemetary with her daughter, Corrine.
Rewidowed, he remained in Rangely, seeking to continue his hero ways and help others. He successfully rebuilt the Lutheran community for 25 years and sought to enlarge the Rangely Community Airport to accommodate community airplanes and possible county flights. He continued to take several world travels to China, Ireland, Australia, Fiji to name a very few.
Hard to believe this one man with these several accomplishments in severe circumstances lived into his 90s. He was a man of extreme love from many and for many.
George is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, who are thankful to the Rangely community for honoring him and including him in your lives. Thank you and God bless you all.