Thomas Retzer Smith
February 3, 1925 – November 23, 2012
Thomas Retzer Smith died November 23 in Grass Valley. He was 87.
A Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, December 9, at 2:00 p.m. at Unity in the Gold Country in Grass Valley
Tom was born on February 3, 1925, in Downieville, the youngest of six children, to Paul Walter Smith and Margaret Johana Fish Smith. As a young man, Tom worked at Cal Ida Lumber Mill and also as a miner in various mines around Downieville.
After graduating from Downieville High School, Class of 1942, Tom joined the Navy and served on the USS Suwanee CVE light aircraft carrier. He received eight battle stars as a torpedo man, reaching the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class and fighting in the battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history.
In 1945, Tom married his high school sweetheart, Auralee Strand, of Goodyears Bar. The young couple moved to San Jose, where Tom graduated from San Jose State with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, class of 1952. During his long and successful career, Tom worked for various contractors and for 25 years with the Corps of Engineers in Sacramento. When he retired, he was the resident engineer of the New Melones Dam in Tuolumne County. After his retirement, Tom and Auralee spent 18 rich and exciting months in the Philippines where Tom was the resident engineer on the New Ipo Dam.
A talented carpenter and builder, Tom built a home in Goodyears Bar for his mother-in-law, Sidney Strand. He built the family home in Downieville using lumber milled on the property. Tom loved the outdoors, especially the mountains of the Sierra, where he hunted throughout his life. He loved to travel and he and Auralee got out and saw the world, starting with camping in many of the national parks, and later heading for Alaska, Mexico, Europe, Asia and Australia. For over 30 years, he and Auralee went to Quartzite with the other snowbirds every winter. He was also a long-standing member of Unity and of Unity Church of the Gold Country in Grass Valley.
Tom and Auralee were married for 65 years when she passed away in 2011. He is survived by his three children, Christine Reynolds, Beverly Jordan and Paul Smith; and by his grandchildren, Matt Reynolds, Timothy Jordan, Tessa Jordan, Jess Reynolds, Jeremy Smith, Paul Jordan and Lucas Smith; and by one great-grandchild, Milo Reynolds. Tom will also be remembered fondly by his large extended family and his many friends near and far.