In Memoriam, Johnny Smith

Quote of the Day:     “I am a part of all that I have met.”     –Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

A Goula boy, Johnny Smith, PHS Class of 1988, Pascagoula Gulf League champion 1981, trumpet player, Marine, childhood friend of TB, and no telling what else died this morning in Atlanta, Georgia, with his Mother at his side. I haven’t seen Johnny since our class reunion back in 1998. Before that we ran into each other by happenstance in Starkville, Mississippi, at a party where I heard about him getting in a fight earlier that day in his Ole Miss Band uniform and clocking some guy with his trumpet. Before that, I can’t even say. 

Johnny and I were teammates on Mississippi Chemical in 1981 and spent a lot of time with each other from ages 10-12. I was obsessed with sports while Johnny was interested in, well, everything. He understood music, computers, and pool tables. He could handle a fishing pole, paddle a canoe and watch The Exorcist in the middle of the night without fear. He liked to stay up all night. He liked to roam the secret passageways of his neighborhood tormenting his buddies. We lost touch when we went to junior high and really didn’t come into contact much between 1982 and that meeting in Starkville. But like many of the people who have shared stories on this site, we seemed to pick up our conversation that evening where we’d left off 10 years before. The same thing happened at our reunion in 1998. I was, and am still hacked that Johnny didn’t show for our 20th, our last chance to catch up.

I feel a little undeserving, a little self indulgent in grieving for Johnny to the degree I am. So many more people have more dearly earned their tears today. So many more people knew him during all those years that he and I lived on separate paths. But I can’t think about him and the random, tragic way his life was cut short without choking back the tears that I know he would never understand. I’m sad for Johnny. I can’t even express how I feel for his Mother. And I’m sorry for myself. It’s not that I would go back and change anything. It’s not like we had a falling out. Its just that his passing highlights the impossibility of knowing well all the good people I wish I could. There’s just not time in this life. Few people are as smart or as tough or as funny as Johnny Smith. And there damn sure wasn’t enough time for him to share those traits with those of us who knew him.

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About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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7 Responses to In Memoriam, Johnny Smith

  1. Anonymous says:

    TB, i just heard about it myself. me and Johnny
    played together for Six when we were 12.
    He was a major reason why we won the league
    that year. Sorry to hear about his passing.

  2. BR says:

    That was me above

  3. Zeek says:

    I was truly saddened to hear of Johnny’s passing today. I have known him almost as long as I have known anyone,growing up with him my whole life in the same church. We were never close, but as I get older and older by the day, I have a new-found respect for guys like Johnny and J. Walter Hawkes who marched to their own beat during adolescence. While my friends and I were busy trying to grow up too fast, wanting to be “cool” and part of the “in” crowd,making fun of others deemed unworthy, Johnny proudly played in the band because he loved it and stayed true to himself. Why do some of us get caught up in that wretched cycle of popularity- seeking- behavior at that age? I wish I could have been more mature and taken the time to know him better. Johnny was always a good guy who was always smiling or laughing and I can only hope he is doing both right now in a much better place. My sincerest condolences go out to his family and close friends who have lost a good man too early.

    Vaya Con Dios, Johnny, Mi Amigo

  4. Jessie Lou says:

    From what Toad has told me today – Johnny’s mom, Pat, has really been through it in the last year. His father, David, had a stroke, in Iraq and his mom had to go over and get him which took weeks I believe. He is now in a nursing home, as is his mother’s mom who has alzheimers. Johnny and his sister grew up in my church and although a bit younger than me I remember them well. Zeek, you read my mind with J. Walter Hawkes connection, another kid from church who marched to his own drummer. It takes a strong personality to make it through the peer pressure. Today at PHS they have guys who play sports but are also in Show Choir where they sing and dance…..at the same time. I don’t think that would have happened in ya’ll high school days.

    My heart goes out to Ms. Pat and Jennifer (who suffered her own loss last year when her significant other died of breast cancer) – may God keep them strong for the hard days ahead. The trumpets blowers in heaven have a new leader today – I hope he is showing what a good southern boy can do!

  5. Mr. Grammar says:

    Amen to that sister!! Blow the hell out of it Johnny Boy!!

  6. quail09 says:

    TB….i didn’t know Johnny….but I grew up with a lot of Johnnies….i admire them all…..well said, my friend

  7. Zeek says:

    TB, did JLou email you that link to Johnny’s funeral home? You can sign guestbook and write something. google Heritage Funeral Home.

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