Source Girdner Funeral Chapel
May 4, 1942 – November 23, 2022
Vernon Lee Smith passed peacefully on November 24, 2022 in Yreka after walking down the long road of dementia. He was born on May 4, 1942 in Newton, Kansas to Virgil and Elizabeth Smith. He survived his parents and three brothers, Kermit, Stanley and Gordon.
Vern was raised in Newton and graduated from Newton High School in 1960. He was an accomplished three sport athlete, excelling in football, baseball and basketball. He chose to focus on basketball and played his freshman collegiate year at Oklahoma State before transferring to Wichita State University. There he studied education and played basketball for the Shockers under legendary coach Ralph Miller, highlighted by playing in the Final Four against Princeton in 1965. He met Dwala Kim while at WSU and the two were married on October 1, 1966. He was drafted in the U.S. Army and completed officer training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where the couple welcomed daughter Stephanie. The family then moved to Emporia, Kansas, where Vern completed his master’s degree in counseling. Through his beloved high school coach, John Ravenscroft, he accepted a teaching position all the way out in Yreka, California, where he and Dwala settled and welcomed a second daughter, Shelly. In a career that spanned 31 years at Yreka High School, Vern taught English and Math and then became the guidance counselor. He also coached football and basketball. “Mr. Smith” coached, guided, counseled and supported countless YHS students over the years. He embraced the close-knit community for decades.
Vern retired from YHS in 2001. Vern and Dwala enjoyed traveling to Oregon to spend time with their daughters and their families…mostly just to have fun with grandsons Spencer and Morgan and granddaughters Claire and Hanna. They also made a number of trips back to Kansas, where Vern was honored by being inducted into his high school’s athletic Hall of Fame, as well as being honored and acknowledged with his Final Four team on numerous occasions.
Vern is survived by his wife of 56 years, Dwala; daughter Stephanie Hoffman and her husband Gary of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, and their children Spencer and Claire; daughter Shelly and her husband Erik of Gresham, Oregon, and their children Hanna and Morgan. He was a gentle-spirited, good humored, loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. Vern, Dad, Papa, and Grandpa, Mr. Smith will always be dearly loved and forever remembered.
Memorial services are pending.