Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Donald James Smith Sr.

RAMSAY, Mich. — Donald James Smith Sr., U.S. Navy veteran, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, sports trash-talker extraordinaire, first-rate cribbage partner, music aficionado and world-class storyteller, left us for his mansion in the sky on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Leaving us at 77 years old, he proved you can be here for both a good time and a long time, although it was not long enough for those of us who loved him.

Don was born Oct. 16, 1944. He was proud to have been born in Ewen. If you happened to ride through Ewen with him, he would proudly take you where he grew up and tell you fondly about the good ole days. Those stories typically involved walking to the schoolhouse in 10 feet of snow, uphill both ways, and barefoot if he really wanted to lay it on thick. He was the son of George and Alma Smith, who he adored, and the youngest of seven siblings.

Don is survived by his absolute saint of a wife, Karen Ann Smith. Together they raised four children: Donald (Karen) Smith Jr., Carol Smith, Cheri (Michael) Marchello, and Jeff Smith. He loved all his children, even the ones who got in trouble (they know who they are) and the ones he didn’t always see eye to eye with, including the one who voted for Bush that one year. He anxiously endured having seven granddaughters: Cassandra Duursma, Carissa (Dillon) Hine, Miah Marchello, Lauren Smith, Alexandria Smith, Hailey Marchello and Gracie Smith, before finally getting his long-awaited grandson, Jack Smith. He adored all his grandchildren, even the ones who drained his whiskey when the bottle definitely didn’t get that low from him, which was probably all of us at some point. He was the proud great-grandfather (affectionately called OG — Old Grandpa) to Cayden Duursma and Everly Hine. In addition to the family listed above, he is survived by his sister, Anne Sain; his rowdy cribbage companions, Rick and John Sain; his bonus daughter, Stephanie Innes; and his hunting family, The Trischlers.

Don will live on in memories and in the traits he passed down to his family, including love for farm animals, skillful (or not so in some of our cases) gardening, enjoyment of a good card game, the thrill of a good scratch off, four-wheeling, hunting, singing old country songs, giving away money to local casinos in your free time, and appreciation of bottom-shelf whiskey mixed with lemon-lime pop. He will, undoubtedly, not only be missed by those who loved him, but also numerous gambling establishments, the schools he personally funded through the Michigan Lottery, and by Kessler Whiskey shareholders. His surviving family members express our condolences to those parties on his behalf.

There will be a Mass of Christian Burial for Don at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 407 Ascherman St. in Wakefield, at 11 a.m., on Thursday, June 16. There will be a private viewing for family members prior to the Mass, from 9:30 to 10 a.m. The family welcomes other guests from 10 to 11 a.m. There will be a luncheon immediately following the service in the church hall.

Rite of Committal and interment will take place at 3:15 p.m. EDT, at the Evergreen Cemetery in Ewen, where military rites will be accorded by the Ontonagon County Veterans Association.

Don’s family would like to express sincere gratitude to Aspirus Wausau Hospital for the Cardiac ICU nurses’ care for him in his final days and for the guest housing accommodations for the family, which ensured he passed peacefully, with dignity and surrounded by love.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to your local VFW. You may also honor Don by trying your luck on a scratch off or slot machine, bringing out a deck of cards, pouring a Kessler and Sprite, watching a Detroit sports or Michigan State game (so long as you trash talk the Packers or U of M), singing an old country song, planting a garden and watching it grow, or telling someone a story (the bigger, and longer, the better just like Don would).

Jerald Rocco, owner and manager of Lakeside Memorial Chapel Inc., in Wakefield, is assisting the family with their arrangements. To send online condolences please go to