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Smith, Chester B.

In the early morning of Tuesday, 2 April 2024, Capt. Chester (Chet) B. Smith (U.S. Navy—Retired) passed gently and peacefully

from this life in his home in the wild woods of Wisconsin, safe and warm and thoroughly loved by family and friends.

Chet was born on 8 May 1936 in Celina, Ohio, and raised by his parents, Sylvia Hone and Chester C. Smith. He proudly enlisted in the U.S. Navy in September 1954. In 1966, well into his sea-going career, he was one of the few enlisted personnel selected to command one of the Navy’s first Patrol River Boats in the Mekong River and became one of the most highly decorated Brownwater Sailors of the Vietnam War (the Gamewardens), receiving a Navy Cross, a Silver Star, a Purple Heart and a variety of other decorations during the conflict.

In 2017 Chet was inducted into the Navy Surface Warfare Association Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of John Paul Jones and Theodore Roosevelt. His 39-years of naval service included command of several towing and salvage ships and a shore station. He retired from active duty as Executive Officer of Naval Station Mayport Florida in 1993, and in 1995 he was appointed to serve as the Chief of Veteran Services for the City of Jacksonville and the Mayor’s liaison to the area’s military bases. He treasured this appointment and served the active duty, retired, and veteran populations of his city for eight years with honor, dignity, and diligence.

Chet is survived by the love of his life, his wife of almost 38 years, Commander Judith A. M. (Judy) Smith (U.S. Navy—Retired) of Waupaca, Wisconsin where they permanently relocated full-time in 2016 to create CopperFox Farm on the family’s land, embracing the peace and solitude of the deep woods, the green fields of summer, the changing seasons, dog Toby and their many cats, and even the deep winter snow. Chet is also survived by his children and grandchildren: daughter Jessica Smith (Brandon Spurlin), who also resides on and manages CopperFox Farm, plus Pete the feisty Blue Heeler; son Zachary Smith (Angela), a Jacksonville firefighter, plus grandchildren Emerson and Maxim, frequent visitors to the farm; son Randy Smith (Cristal) a Texas-based BNSF railroad engineer, plus Garret (now following grandpa as a USN sailor) and granddaughter Amelia, also a frequent visitor to the farm; son and namesake Chester (Chet) Smith, Jr., of Keystone Heights, Florida, a medically retired proud US Navy SEAL and his dog, Camo who also enjoys time on the farm; and daughter Lisa Ziegler (Dale) of Georgia, plus grandchildren Lacey Reins (Matt) and great granddaughter, Penelope; Danny Ziegler (Katie) and Dale Ziegler, Jr. (Jessica), plus Allison and Harper; and daughter Jolynn Helton and grandchildren Josh and Jennifer and their children. Chet is further survived by his brother Ralph (Buzz) Smith (Beth) and nieces Renee and Robin and their families; brother Bill Smith and nephew Karl; plus sister Jeri Ross (Gary) plus nephew Matt (Julie) and niece Jamie (Mark) and their families. Other surviving half-siblings include Ron, Cheryl, and Gerald and their families.

Chet was preceded in death by his brother Dwayne Rumpff and sister-in-law Betty, and is survived by his nephew Rick Rumpff. We the family and his many, many friends will all miss this man of courage, honor, love, and deep convictions.

Arrangements will be handled by A. J. Holly & Sons in Waupaca. A celebration of Chet’s truly amazing life will be held for family and friends at his beloved CopperFox Farm on Flag Day, 14 June 2024, their 38th wedding anniversary, at 3:00pm, with the family receiving guests at 2:00pm. His cremains will join the earth of the family farm and many of the beautiful places of peace that he and Judy visited over the years.

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