Eldred Gee Smith
Eldred Gee Smith, Patriarch Emeritus to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away peacefully in his home on Thursday, April 4 , 2013. At 106, he was the oldest man in Utah.
Alert to the end, he spent the day before his death attending the temple with other General Authorities and handling personal business.
Patriarch Smith was born January 9, 1907, in Lehi, Utah, to Hyrum Gibbs Smith and Martha Electa Gee Smith, the second of eight children. His childhood years were spent in Lehi; in Los Angeles, California, while his father attended USC dental school; and in Salt Lake City, following his father’s call as Patriarch to the Church.
After his father’s untimely death in 1932, Eldred worked at various jobs to support his mother and siblings during the Great Depression, including painting the ceiling of the Tabernacle, delivering ice on his back, and wallpapering for Bennett Paint & Glass.
Eldred married Jeanne Audrey Ness on August 17, 1932 and they had five children. She died in 1977. He married Hortense Hogan Child in May 1978.
During World War II, Eldred worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A lifelong engineer, Eldred registered several patents and enjoyed perpetual tinkering, especially on the building and rehabilitating of clocks. His culminating hands-on project was the design and building, with his wife Jeanne, of their home on St. Mary’s Drive.
Prior to his call as a General Authority, Eldred served as a branch president, bishop, and high councilor. Called as Patriarch to the Church in 1947 by President George Albert Smith, he served with nine prophets. He received emeritus status in 1979, but continued to give patriarchal blessings in his office in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building until recently. He gave over 18,000 patriarchal blessings throughout the world during his service as Patriarch.
Patriarch Smith was the oldest living descendant of Joseph Smith, Sr., and of Hyrum Smith, brother to the Prophet Joseph. As the oldest son in a line of oldest sons from Hyrum, he inherited Smith family artifacts dating back to the beginning of LDS Church history. For almost fifty years, he gave fireside talks, many with his second wife, Hortense, using these artifacts to tell stories of the Smith family and the LDS Church beginnings. It is estimated that over 500,000 people heard his presentations over the years.
Eldred has donated many family papers and relics to the LDS Church and BYU library.
Eldred was preceded in death by almost everybody. He stopped reading obituaries ten years ago, as contemporaries’ names were not showing up any more. Among those welcoming him home were his parents; his sisters, Cleone, Helen, Miriam, Verona, and Donna; his brothers, Hyrum and Barden; his first wife, Jeanne; his second wife, Hortense; his daughter Audrey Gay Vance; and two grandsons. Eldred is survived by his daughter Miriam (Ted) Skeen, sons Eldred Gary (Elizabeth) and Gordon Raynor, daughter Sylvia Dawn (Craig) Isom, 22 grandchildren, 63 great-grandchildren, and 22 great-great grandchildren. Eldred was also a beloved step-father and grandfather to Hortense’s two children, Carol Jane Burdette and T.R. Child, and her eleven grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, April 10, at 11:00 am at the Monument Park Stake Center, 1320 S. Wasatch Drive. Friends and family may call Tuesday evening, 6-8 pm, at the Larkin Sunset Lawn Mortuary, 2350 E. 1300 S., and at the stake center Wednesday, 9:30-10:40 am. Interment at Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Published in Deseret News from April 6 to April 8, 2013