John Kneale Smith, "John K," passed away on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at his home in Independence, CA surrounded by his loving family. He was 94 years old. John was born on April 11, 1922 in Fort Duchesne, Utah. He was the son of former U.S. Government Farm Advisor, Commissioner and teacher for the Great Ute Reservation, Hylas Charles Smith and Marietta Bell Lawson Smith. He was the grandson of Union Civil War veteran and Kansas pioneer, Capt. John May Smith. As a young boy, John moved around with his family from Utah to New Mexico and Colorado before eventually settling in Beloit, Kansas, where his father worked for the Salina Journal. Times being tough in Kansas during the 30's, John and his father moved west to Ventura County, CA settling in with his sister, Eugenia and her husband, Jack. Young John and his Uncle Jack were among the first to operate the "Man Eater," a very dangerous large piece of brushing equipment pulled behind tractors to clear brush and small trees. John also ran brushing crews, clearing roads and wells for Shell Oil Company while attending school. Later on he would work summers with the High Sierra Pack Train leading a string of mules on horseback into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, taking in vacationers and bringing them back out, and also supplying the miners on Kearsarge Mountain. He had a reputation for being a careful and courageous packer and in fact, was the only packer who never lost a string of mules on the dangerous trails into the mining camps. John graduated from Ventura High School and went on to attend Ventura Junior College graduating in 1942. He was a popular two-term student body president, captain of the basketball team, active in dramatics, and a prize-winning student speaker. It was during this time that he met his lifelong sweetheart, Mary "Tansy" Isabel Fitz-Patrick Constable. After junior college John was accepted at Stanford University. While at Stanford, John was drafted into military service during
and answering the call of duty, John enrolled into the Navy V-12 program. Leaving Stanford, John was sent to basic training in Colorado Springs, CO and thereafter onto Columbia University for his officer training. As an Officer Junior Grade he was assigned to the
United States Navy
's Admiral's Flag Ship USS Williamsburg, which after the war, became the Presidential Yacht. The ship was stationed along America's Atlantic Coast, from Florida to Maine, hunting for German submarines. During his tour of duty along the east coast, John and Tansy were married in Norfolk, Virginia in 1944. John mustered out Lieutenant JG, John K. Smith, November 1, 1945. He then returned to Stanford University and graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration. Upon graduation, John and Tansy moved to Independence, CA where they purchased the Independence Dairy from long time resident Debs Yandel. In an effort to supplement a growing family's income demand, John took a job as assistant Road Commissioner for the Inyo County Road Department, headquartered in Independence. He quickly moved up to become the Inyo County Road Commissioner. As Inyo County Road Commissioner John took on two additional positions: Civil Defense Director and Inyo County Administrator. As county administrator, John championed the betterment of Inyo County, the Owens Valley and all its people and places. He was a staunch and often outspoken defender of the county and valley's water rights. John retired from civic duties in 1982 after 33 years as Inyo County Administrator and continued farming and ranching as his full time vocation. He hadn't retired for long when the call to civic duty came knocking at his door again. The Southern Inyo Hospital had fallen on difficult times and requested his expertise and management skills. John gave freely of his time assuming the directorship role where he guided the hospital back to financial solvency before returning to his ranching duties. John also belonged to local civic clubs: American Legion and Independence Lions Club and the Inyo Associates. His greatest satisfaction in life, he said, was being able to help people with their problems. In addition to his parents, John K. Smith was preceded in death by his brothers, Sidney and Hylas; sisters, Naomi Shawver, Eugenia Smith, Barbara Harrison and Elizabeth Vernon and granddaughter Alana Kelly Birchim. He is survived by his wife of more than 72 years, Mary (Tansy) Isabel Smith; his son ,John Hylas Smith and wife Christina; his daughter, Tansy Sue and husband Russell Birchim; daughter, Cara Lawson Erickson; son, Zachary Dean Smith and wife Virginia Thorson, along with 11 grandchildren and 11 Great grandchildren.A private ceremony by his family will take place at a later date.Please make any donations in his honor to the .