Obituary of William F Smith
William (Bill) F. Smith, age 95, born June 29th, 1928, in Rutherford, NJ, died peacefully at his daughter Maureen’s home in Fairfax, Virginia on December 9th, 2023.
Married for nearly 70 years to the former Eileen O’Keefe of Lyndhurst, NJ, they raised five children in Lyndhurst. Their daughter Eileen died at the age of three. They have nine grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.
Bill was born in Rutherford and graduated from St. Mary's High School. After a three-year tour in the Army, he moved to Lyndhurst. A proud son of Lyndhurst, Bill was a patrolman in the Lyndhurst Police Department from 1951 to 1968, and served as an elected Lyndhurst Commissioner two times, once as Public Safety Commissioner (1973 to 1977), and once as Public Works Commissioner (2001 to 2005). Bill was always involved in town, coaching Midget League football, participating as a lector at Sacred Heart, and serving as President of the Board of Education and on the town Planning Board. He was also a Bergen County Parks Commissioner in the 1980s. He was an active member of the AMVETS.
Following his time as a police officer, Bill worked for over 20 years for R.S. Knapp Co. in Lyndhurst, an Engineering Services company owned by the O’Keefe family, as a Sales Representative.
After leaving full time work, he served as a Sergeant at Arms for the NJ State Legislature in Trenton.
In 2009 Bill and Eileen moved to Venice, Florida where they lived until 2019.
Survived by his wife Eileen, daughters Maureen Merkl of Fairfax VA and Jean Becker of Waldwick NJ, sons Bill (wife Barbara) of Berkeley Heights NJ and Jim (wife Lori) of Tampa FL, grandchildren, Kerry (husband Dan), Greg (wife Brittany), Kathleen (husband Dan), Anton (wife Kelsey), Eileen (fiancé Tony), Will (fiancé Jenn), Katie, Anna and Connor, and great-grandchildren, Seraphina, Caroline, Evangeline, Lachlan, Courtland, Miles, Cameron, April and Melanie.
Bill clearly lived a life of service, and instilled the same spirit in his children, telling them “Everyone should find time in their lives to serve their country.” Much of the family took his message to heart. His children and grandchildren have served over 150 years in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Department of State and other Federal Agencies, and on Congressional staffs. While their service caused some anxiety, Bill and Eileen’s travel experience expanded greatly, with trips to London, Germany and Japan included in the many visits they made to duty stations. Bill was equally proud of the family members who made their mark in the business world, in nursing, and education.
The work ethic he always demonstrated, and his ability to balance work, family and community set a tough standard for all. Perhaps his most lasting legacy is his example of accountability. Anyone can attest that you could always count on Bill to be five minutes early, with a full tank of gas, and a few extra dollars in his pocket. His grandchildren became used to finding their cars mysteriously filled with gas overnight during visits or to be “palmed” some “spending money” on their way out the door – even after they graduated from school and had fully paying jobs. Never one to complain, he set an example of dignity and forbearance for every challenge or difficulty. Conversely, he knew how to celebrate and never took life’s high points for granted. Christmas parties in the basement, Fourth of July fireworks in town, summer vacations on a beach or around a campfire, tailgating for football games, flowers for Easter, grandchildren’s sporting events and recitals, births and birthdays, baptisms, communions, confirmations, and weddings – he could be seen at each with a smile, a song, and a reminiscence – but most often quietly enjoying the fruits of his labor.
Bill was a friend to hundreds, including many in Lyndhurst who knew him as “Smitty the Cop.” He and Eileen had a large group of friends from their teens who stayed close through the years, sharing camping vacations, celebrating holidays, and taking on projects together.
Born at the start of the Depression, and a young teen during World War II, Bill was always a believer in America. Although he married a proud Irish American from a large family, Bill never expressed much interest in his own heritage. When his kids asked about their ethnicity, his response was uniformly “You’re American.”
A long-suffering but loyal fan of the NY Giants and NY Mets, he was also delighted to have a granddaughter attend Notre Dame University, whose football teams he had always followed. A relatively late blooming golfer, he enjoyed games with his Lyndhurst friends, and with new friends when they first moved to Florida.
Bill was a sharp dresser (except for his white shoes/white belt and leisure suit phases), and a lover of good food … particularly Italian. His kids repeat many of his life lessons, including “the secret to a good sandwich is the bread,” as well as his Neapolitan pronunciations of Italian menu items (not calamari, but galamad). Bill (Pop-Pop) was famous to his grandkids for the breakfasts he would serve at their campsite in the Poconos, and for his skills on the grill.
Bill was in declining health during his nearly five years living with Maureen in Virginia, but he never complained. He, and the family, benefitted greatly from the dedicated and compassionate help of his caregiver, Doris Thigpen, who ensured he was both always comfortable and dignified.
Bill will be remembered as a man who treated his friends as family, his family as friends; who demonstrated a love of country and community; who was a true believer in God and the Church, and who provided more fond memories than seem possible in his short, 95-year life.
Memorial gathering will be held at Nazare Memorial Home, 403 Ridge Road, Lyndhurst on Sunday, December 17th between the hours of 2 pm and 5 pm. The Memorial Mass will be held at Sacred
Heart Church, on Monday December 18th, beginning at 10AM. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Tunnel to Towers at www.t2t.org. You may also express condolences to Bill's family by using our tribute wall.
In Loving Memory
1928 - 2023
Three generations of a family that took root in Lyndhurst and have created a legacy to be the people you know with respect, dignity and compassion for all those who pass through our doors. For close to 90 years the Nazare Memorial Home has been a pillar of service to the people of Lyndhurst and its bordering communities.