Cecil Odell Smith, Sr.

Published 6:08 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

By Staff
Cecil Odell Smith, Sr., 87, of 651 Smith Shore Road, Belhaven, NC, died at home on Tuesday July 7, 2009. He was a lifelong resident of Beaufort County and was widely and lovingly known as “the telephone man” by many rural residents of Beaufort, Washington, and Hyde counties.
Funeral services will be Friday July 10, 2009, at First Baptist Church of Smithton, conducted by the Rev. Dr. Burke Holland. The family will receive friends at 2 p.m. at the church with the service following at 3 p.m. A private interment for family will be in the Smithton Cemetery.
Cecil Smith was well-known for his genteel manner and friendly smile, and for his vision and never-ending work for his community. He was a role model for not only his children, but for many others — young and old — who were fortunate to spend time with him.
Mr. Smith was born June 24, 1922, to the late Fred W. Smith and Mary Cayton Marslender Smith and raised on their farm in the Smithton community. He graduated from high school in Belhaven, worked with the National Youth Administration during World War II, and then helped establish the Tri-County Telephone Membership Corporation to bring telephone service to the farmers and other rural residents of the aforementioned counties.
Beginning in 1955 and for the first 10 years that Tri-County Telephone provided phone service, Mr. Smith was the one and only telephone man serving all the subscribers in the tri-county area. He worked tirelessly and without vacation during that time to ensure that rural residents had access to the conveniences of modern communication. In 1972, after the telephone co-op became an independent entity apart from what is now Tideland Electric, Mr. Smith was named manager of Tri-County Telephone and guided it to national eminence among rural telephone cooperatives. During his 20-year tenure as head of Tri-County Telephone, the co-op enjoyed enviable growth, and it and Mr. Smith won national awards for service and efficiency.
After his retirement in 1992, Mr. Smith continued to serve his community as a director for the philanthropic Tri-County Foundation, as well as serving on other boards. He also went on several mission trips to Honduras to help rural residents of that country.
Shortly before his death from cancer, Mr. Smith finished writing his memoirs, which will be published later this year under the title By Finger and By God.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 42 years, Opal Griffin Smith. He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Elva Bunch Silverthorne Smith. Also surviving are his son, Cecil O. Smith, Jr. and wife Janie, daughters, Pamela Smith and husband Trip Browning, and Deborah Dewey and husband Charles; step-daughters Nancy (and Billy) Hill, Kathy Mann, and Patty (and Wallace) Selby; sisters Verena Paul, Cora Bond, and Francis Martin; brother Forrest L. Smith; and grandchildren Cecil O. Smith, III, Stephanie Smith, James Browning, and Christian Browning; step grandchildren Josh Swindell, Amanda Swindell, Jamye Mann, and Daniel Woolard, and three step great-grandchildren. His brothers Fred W. Smith, Jr., Carlton Marslender and Ernie Marslender and his sisters, Kathlean Sawyer, Madeline Smith and Rosa Lee Lewis preceded him in death.
His family extends their heartfelt thanks to Dr. Charles Boyette of Belhaven, Dr. Paul Walker of the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center, to University Hospice, and to his wonderful caregivers.
Memorials may be made to one of his favorite charities: the Smithton Cemetery, c/o Chester Smith, 2694 NC 99 Hwy, Belhaven, NC 27810; the Wilkinson Center, 144 Main Street, Belhaven, NC 27810; the Pantego Academy, 46 Academy Street, Pantego, NC 27860.
You may address your condolences to the Smith family by visiting www.paulfuneralhome.com.
Paul Funeral Home of Washington and Belhaven are serving the Smith Family.
Paid Obituary