What has the worker from his toil? – Ecclesiastes 3:9

Many thanks to Charlie Martin of Erlanger Christian Church for sharing the meditation he prepared for Papa’s funeral, which follow:

The first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3 remind us of God’s presence in the entirety of life … to everything there is a season and a purpose.

Wherever we might find ourselves … can be found within God’s ultimate concept and plan for time.

Oscar Smith was an amazing well-read student of the Bible.

Oscar would indeed sense the simple logic to these verses.

But Oscar’s life taught us the message from Ecclesiastes isn’t crowned at verse 8.

Oscar’s life provides us the meaning of verse 9 (READ).

                                    What gain has the worker from his toil? 

                                    The gain … from hard work ?

Oscar knew the answer to that question.

Hard work is what we are supposed to be doing with our lives.

God placed us in the great parameters of time and provided for all seasons and every activity so that we can work … so that we can help and be a servant to others!

What gain has the worker from his toil? 

                        Our gain is realized by helping others in God’s world.

By working we make good use of our time.

If you knew Oscar … if you got to know Oscar … if Oscar got to know you … working in service to others was very likely involved.

I met Oscar on the 2nd day my family moved to Kentucky when he arrived at our house a full hour before the rest of the folks from the church.

Oscar came to do the grunt work of taping and putting down plastic drop cloths so that when others came … the work could be done.

Yard work, volunteering at United Ministries … mission projects … working in flooded churches … teaching Sunday school … working on the property committee … helping at church camp … folding newsletters and bulletins before we had a folding machine … Oscar believed that if there was work to be done … do it … preferably his way  … but do it.

If this work helped others … all the better !

As we gather to remember and celebrate his exemplary life I think Oscar would want us to make good use of our time this day … there’s work to be done.

______ & _______ are now going to pass out Sunday’s bulletins and the insert that needs to go inside.

There’s work to be done. 

The Oscar way … “the right way” will be to place the Call to Worship Side face up … that would come before Erlanger Heritage Day!

When you’re done … pass them to the center aisle … we’ll get them later.

Let’s get to work!  You don’t want Papa to give you a thump on the head! 

The other day I heard one member of Oscar’s family refer to the countless positive ripples in the pond that Oscar’s life has made and will continue to make.

We might rephrase it to say “ripples in the CREEK” … because going to the creek was so much a part of his life journey.

He loved being there … he loved taking other people there.

There were only  2 rules.

#1:  If you go the creek … the work gets done before the fun starts.

And 2nd you can’t go the creek if you’re not potty-trained!

Whether at family gatherings … whether he brought a church dinner to attention by whistling … if you were blessed to sit on his lap as he read you “Brer” Rabbit … or spent the night at his house … which meant you moved Mary Jane out of the bed because you got to sleep in Papa’s bed … whether he came to your classroom at school  and told living history lessons … whether you passed him on the street … whether you had the privilege of “eating high on hog” with him … whether you were present on one of the rare occasions when Oscar was brought to tears … Oscar Smith was someone that you would respect … that you’d keenly listen to … that you might even want to grow up to be like.

An accurate dictionary beside the word “MENTOR” should have a picture of Oscar in a hat, a flannel shirt, suspenders and walking stick with the caption “Where you at?”

Seeing and being around Oscar was a teaching lesson … if you wanted to want to learn how to break rocks … pull weeds … paint a room … mow a lawn.

In a brief sentence he could impart his wisdom on evangelism … when he’d say:  the church doors ain’t locked on Sundays! … Come on in! 

This past Monday, Oscar took the next step on his journey of life and faith.

It was a step he was prepared to take for a long time.

I will always remember calling him on the phone one day … I asked him how he was doing.  He said:  “Pretty good, I’m just waiting to die!” 

That was almost 2 years ago!

What gain has the worker from his toil? 

            Oscar Smith toiled as a faithful, selfless worker on this earth for some 94 years.

II Timothy 4: 7 – I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Those words have never been spoken to depict someone more accurately than when spoken about Oscar Smith.

The faith that Oscar kept assures us that has continued his journey to his mansion prepared for him by his Lord and Savior.

It likely resembles a cabin with a rocking chair on the porch and a creek nearby.

Likely it’s not warm enough to suit Oscar.

There he is reunited with Mary Jane and a host of friends and fellow saints of the faith.

The only questions left for us to ponder:

“Will Oscar find work that needs to be done?” 

“And how soon will he look down and hear a hymn … and be brought to tears?

One thing is certain … Oscar would tell us:

“There’s still work for us to do  … “where you at?”

Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

Rest in peace …  Oscar.

Let us pray.


































In the stillness of this place we turn to you O God who is the creator , sustainer and provider of life on this earth and life everlasting.  We reverence we gather to celebrate and thank God for the life among us of Oscar Smith.  We come in the spirit of faith that assures us that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, can separate us from the  love of God we know in Christ Jesus our Lord who taught all  his disciples to pray … Our Father …



Ever-present and gracious God, your steadfast love endures forever … your faithfulness to all generations.


We trust in your Word … we seek to be hugged by your strong arms of grace in our moments of grief and loss.


Speak to our hearts and surround with words of comfort and calm.


Touch each one of us with the hope we find in our faith in thee that our lives on this earth are but a part of the journey to everlasting life with thee.


We thank you for the strong, full life lived among us in Oscar Smith.


For the lessons of caring and serving others he taught by word and constant example we are grateful.


Strengthen us that the tears we shed in these days may become tears of joy for the many ways Oscar stirred us, guided us, and loved us.


With the confidence that our Resurrection faith provides we entrust Oscar into your everlasting Kingdom.


May his walking stick now guide him down heaven’s paths to the mansion prepared for him and Mary Jane by their Lord and Savior, who lived and died and lives again  so that we might know even abundant life.   Amen.




Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy … and my burden is light.


Silent Prayer


Psalm 23


O Lord, thou has been our dwelling place in all generations.  From everlasting to everlasting thou art our God and we are thy children.  We come seeking thy comfort, yearning for thy presence of strength and love.  We praise your name for we know you are fulfilling our every need in each moment of each day.  As we commit the body and soul of thy faithful servant Oscar Smith unto you … help us amidst our pain and sorrow to realize life anew in Christ Jesus who lived and died and rose from the grave to bring unto us the reality of everlasting life.  Amen.


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

May this amazing grace, bring you peace, both now and forever more.  Amen

































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The party continues

Now that we’re all finished wiping our tears (okay that’s silly, we all know we’re still crying and that’s perfectly okay), it’s time to figure out when and where we’ll all be meeting to celebrate the life of Oscar Smith and the lessons he’s taught that have made us all who we are today!

Visitation: Thursday, September 1, 2011 – 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST

Linnemann Funeral Home
30 Commonwealth Ave.
Erlanger, KY 41018

Funeral: Friday, September 2, 2011 – 11:00 AM EST

Erlanger Christian Church
27 Graves Ave.
Erlanger, KY 41018

How can you help? We are looking for the best pictures available! Papa was a very photogenic guy so we know that there are a lot of pictures of him circulating. If you have an excellent picture of Papa send it via email to papawatch.wordpress@gmail.com or keitheknapp@gmail.com or contact Katie Knapp at 859-816-2983 to make arrangements to hand it off!

Thank you all so much for you help and support!

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The end of an era

As many of you have already heard, thanks to Facebook, Papa passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. It is certainly a sad time, but the entire family is comforted with the shared knowledge that he is now in heaven. When I first heard that Papa had passed away, I immediately put together my own scenario of what likely happened when he was welcomed and it goes a little something like this:

Papa walks through the pearly gates, which happen to look a lot like the back door of the little home that is now occupied by Daniel, Katie, Abby and friends, wipes off his hands after a hard day’s work, eats a wonderful meal with Nana and all of the friends they’ve shared, reaches into the cookie jar for one of Nana’s chocolate chip cookies (which now taste even better than he remembered), sit’s back in his chair with a toothpick, puts on a flannel shirt and demands that someone turn up the heat because, “It’s freezing in here.”

I cry when I think of it, but it’s the kind of tears that Papa taught us all to cry. The kind that express sadness AND joy, the kind that don’t necessarily connote pain, but reflect a deeper understanding of what is good. These are the same tears that Papa always cried at just about every Thanksgiving dinner as he tried to thank God for all of the wonderful blessing He’d bestowed upon our always growing family. I cry these tears now to express the comfort in knowing that Papa is watching over us while being filled with a greater love than even he could express.

While this imagined “scene” is probably destitute in comparison to what actually happened when Papa was welcomed, it warms me to know that he’s now surrounded by an unimaginable warmth and love forever.

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Papa’s New Address

While many of you may already know, I wanted to pass along the news that Papa has moved! As of this evening, when I visited with my Mom (Gayle), Uncle George, Aunt Pat and Uncle Gary, Papa was getting adjusted to his new environment.

For those of you who have not been able to get to see him yet, HE LOVES COMPANY!!! If you have a free lunch hour, open evening or even time for a great conversation, he would be ecstatic to see you. His new address is below.

Woodcrest Manor
Rm 149
3876 Turkeyfoot Rd.
Elsmere, KY 41018-2838


Even if you aren’t able to make it out to see him, please feel free to send him a card, a letter or post a comment on the blog at any time.

With deepest sincerity, I want to thank everyone for their ongoing prayerful support.

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A list of love

There will be extended versions of each of these memories that I will share below, but as my mind has been running at full speed trying to find the best way to put into words the many memories I have of Papa, I’ve found myself going in so many directions that I decided a list, which will in no way be categorically or linearly correct, would be a good way to get started.

I will start with perhaps one of the earliest memories I have of Papa. I can’t be for certain how old I was, but I remember Papa chasing me around the yard at Nana and Papa’s house. I remember this like a snapshot, it is so vivid in my mind. I was always, and still remain, a tightly wound individual and running around has always been a joy for me so when Papa used to chase me I always got such joy from it. I always loved playing tag with him and on this particular occasion, he was in the back corner of his yard (for reference I’ll say he was by the bird bath) and I was hiding behind the tall pine tree next to the clothes line, which is sadly no longer standing. I have no recollection of what I was wearing, but Papa was wearing the classic Dickie’s work pants he always wore, his work boots, the denim coat with flannel lining that will outlive God himself, and the light blue sock cap that was actually a ski mask rolled up that he always wore.

I remember peeking around the tree’s trunk only to see a spry Papa running full speed ahead so I bolted only to be caught instantly by Papa’s then strong hands.

The most amazing part about this memory is how fit papa was, even into his mid-seventies. Considering I’m now 25 and Papa 93, and I can only imagine I’d have been at least 4 or 5 years old when this would have occurred which would have made papa 72 or 73 years old running at full speed.

From this point on I’ll list memories as I ramble them off:

  • Papa loved to say, “Boy, we’re eating high on the hog now” whenever we sat down to a good meal.
  • Papa’s yard was a model of perfection
  • he loved his suspenders
  • his workboots
  • Papa owned so many hats
  • fishing at the creek and catching my first bass, which almost caught me.
  • The challenge of starting the weed eater
  • Papa loved dessert, still does, in fact
  • instant coffee
  • peppermints
  • the sheet of metal behind the stove at the creek
  • spaghetti and meatballs
  • time value of money
  • good companies
  • United Ministries, formerly known at EEUM, Erlanger Elsmere United Ministries
  • “The Jimmy” which was the name of every truck, SUV, he ever owned
  • come here Greg… or Geor… oh, KEITH
  • I’ll give you a hicky
  • I’ll put a knot on your head
  • stop sitting there like a bump on a log
  • oats
  • peanut butter and jelly
  • soup for lunch
  • “Shoot a Monkey”
  • “I love you”
  • honey, “Honey”
  • “Mother used to…”
  • crying
  • the second pew at church
  • singing the Alleluia chorus with names of church members and ending on “And Oscar Smith” (thanks Daniel Nelson)
  • Walking sticks
  • creek shoes
  • the ripples, riffles, we could never remember the name and I still don’t
  • “heave, ho” in the canoe
  • using a tarp to pick up leaves
  • using papa as the subject in any biographical writing piece I ever had to write in school
  • chocolate candy and clementines for Christmas.
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A Celebration with Music

Papa has always been one who enjoys music. While some may refer to his tastes as old fashioned, boring or even odd, the uplifting quality of the music he truly enjoys is undoubted. On October 17th, Erlanger Christian Church was kind enough to host a small concert for Papa, at his wish. He picked out several songs from some of his favorite albums over the years, and Barry, Keith, Daniel, Katie and Abby Knapp, along with  Dottie, Laura and Kyle Durham performed in front of a pretty packed house. Also, the Erlanger Christian Church choir joined for a few numbers making this concert one that all who attended will remember for a lifetime. Not for the quality or the fun that was had on stage, but for the obvious joy that was felt by Papa as he sat in his recliner at the foot of the Sanctuary’s stage with a full house of family and friends behind him.

As one of the performers, and as one who has spent a lot of time hackling Papa for his love of Tenessee Ernie Ford’s music, I want to extend a special thanks to all who attended. It was certainly a blessing to be able to share this time with Papa.

Please feel free to submit any comments or special memories you have of this concert! Papa is always amazed by the capability of this format and loves reading the comments people post.

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Always ready for an adventure

From Ron and Dottie Durham: October 5, 2010

Several great families stuck out in our minds when we thought of our first years at Erlanger Christian. Doc and Lucille Houston, Charlie and Barbara Ransler, Millie Riffe, and Oscar and Mary Jane Smith.

Kyle Durham making the "West Pinnacle Jump" at Indian Fort Mountain

Oscar has always loved the youth at our church. I remember fondly the laughs and good stories Oscar shared as he helped drive the youth to Danville, Illinois to begin their long bike trip back to Erlanger during one of the hottest weeks ever recorded in July many years ago. He was also always ready to join the youth in their mountain climbing escapades on Indian Fort Mountain in Berea.

We could always count on Oscar to use his handyman skills around church. Ron and I called him many years ago to help install a new front door at our house. We had no idea what we were doing, and Oscar was kind enough to help us, and not to laugh at our mistakes.

A few years ago I invited Oscar to speak to my 5th grade class about growing up in Erlanger. My students were enthralled by his stories of cranking a car to start it, and the dirt roads where busy streets are today. He really is living history.

There are not too many genuinely happy people in the world today. Oscar is one of those people. He supported Ron in the pulpit, and directing the choirs at church and at Lloyd High School. Oscar’s grandchildren performed in several musicals at Lloyd. Oscar has attended Lloyd’s musicals for over 16 years in a row. My favorite story about Oscar involves one of those performances. You see, Oscar has a sensitivity to sudden loud noises. Each year he would ask Ron if there were any gun shots. “No, Oscar, not this year.” But that wasn’t true. There was always a loud noise, and then Oscar would shout, “OH” and pop up in his seat. The year they performed “Anything Goes” Jason Moore decided to add a prat fall not in the script. Oscar saw it coming and let out a long “ooooOOOOOOHHHHH” which got the audience’s attention. When Jason hit the deck, the laughter lasted nearly a full minute. Thanks, Oscar. That was one of the funniest moments ever.

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Papa’s Smile

Papa enjoying his 90th birthday with friends and family at Erlanger Christian Church

One thing that has always been true about Papa, is that he loves to smile. He has always been one to enjoy even the simplest things in life and has passed along the joy that can be found in all life’s moments to many of those who know him.

Part of that joy he finds in life has made him very photogenic. From his days at Lloyd Memorial High School where folks can still find a stoic photo of both Nana and Papa hanging on the wall along with their respective graduating classes until today, Papa’s smile has a way of brightening photos.

There are thousands of photos of Papa that have been taken over the years and the images have captured him with Nana at church, with his grandkids, with his own kids and with other family and friends in many different ways. In some he is actively participating in a project, in some he is sitting quietly by as he enjoys the laughter of his great-grandkids, and in others he is laughing with them.

Regardless of what is going on in the picture, it is always evident that there is joy in the place where the picture was taken.

To see some pictures that have been snapped of Papa over the years, check out the Photos page, or CLICK HERE!

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“Life by the tail on a downhill drag”

From Jennifer Murphy Britt: September 29, 2010

When I received the email from my cousin Keith that he had started this blog about Papa, so many memories flooded my mind.  There are so many things I want to say about both my Nana and Papa that I didn’t know where to begin.   However, what stands out the most about both of them is: they were there for us. There to support, love, guide, teach and show us the way.

Many adjectives come to mind to describe our beloved Papa:  faithful, determined, feisty, generous, loving, all of which endears him to so many.  Not only his immediate family, but anyone who meets him – he becomes their Papa too!  Papa is dearly loved by many and respected by all who cross his path.

When Papa visited my mother (Bonnie) in Florida during the Summer of 2007, nothing was going to stop him from being productive.   Don’t you know, there is always something to do, build, fix, create.  He didn’t come to Florida to relax and enjoy the Florida sunshine.  No…he is the ultimate taskmaster!  Being at the young age of 90 wasn’t going to stop him.  Here is a picture of him from that visit…

One of my favorite quotes from Papa, that he would always say to me, is, “you’ve got life by the tail on a down hill drag.” When I was much younger, that quote always made me laugh.  Now, when I hear it, it resonates more deeply.  He’s just reminding me of how fortunate I am.   How blessed I am.   How loved I am.   How wonderful my life truly is.

When I spoke with him recently, I asked, “how are you doing, Papa?”  His reply…. “I’ve got life by the tail on a down hill drag!”    It was great to hear that, knowing how difficult everything has become for him.  Knowing he can’t jump up and do that which he wishes to do.  His physical strength has diminished greatly, however, his mental strength still soars.

Papa provides a tremendous example of a life well lived.  How to stay faithful during the unbearable times.  How to laugh, cry and love one another.   How to stay positive, even when things look so bleak and weary.  Thank you Papa for your example.  Thank you for being there for us.   Thank you for reminding us that we have life by the tail on a down hill drag!

With much love to you Papa,


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From Scott and Brenda Hamilton, Sept. 27, 2010

Over twenty five years ago I was fortunate to find Erlanger Christian Church while searching for a church home for my family. Of course, one of the first people to welcome me into the church was Oscar Smith and his wife, Mary Jane. He reminded me so much of my own grandfather and I was instantly drawn to the caring nature of this wonderful man. Little did I know then that my daughter would end up in the same class as Oc’s grandson. I knew instantly that ECC was going to be my church home but what I didn’t know was that Oscar Smith would play a huge role in my spiritual life as well as my husband’s and my 2 children’s.

At the time I joined ECC we were going through ministers pretty frequently and the committees were hard to fill and the work done around the church was handled by the property committee which consisted of Oscar. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with my newborn child and certainly didn’t mind going to church on days when Oscar was going to be working around the church to help him. It so reminded me of those days that I hung to my grandfather’s overalls when we went to the garden to work or to feed the animals. The church didn’t own the extra space where the parking lot is now yet and Ms. Houston still lived in the little white house beside the church, and the weeds were grown up down the side of the church by the Sunday School rooms. On one day that we worked at church our task was to remove the grown up weeds. I had never had poison ivy in my life and I’m sure it wasn’t because I hadn’t been around it, I had just never gotten so deep into it before. Those of us that know Oscar know what happened at 12 noon everyday and off we went to the Smith house for a sandwich and a drink before we headed back to the church to finish clearing out the brush, bundling it up, and carrying it off in the truck to get rid of it. I spent many days with Oscar but that first work day set a relationship in motion that I will always cherish.

My husband’s father was gravely ill in 1987 and 88 and his only wish was that Scott be baptised. My husband had a conversation with Oscar that was never spoken of and within 2 weeks Scott was baptised in a private family ceremony after church that included Oscar’s presence. Oscar and Scott now had that special spiritual relationship also. I know that we are not the only people that Oscar Smith touched in his life but those that have had something special with Oscar are very lucky people and I assure you that they will never forget the special way he has of touching your heart with a word or a smile.

I thank you Oscar and I know Scott does also, we will always be grateful to you and love you as though you were our family. God Bless You our dear friend.

With all our love,

Scott and Brenda Hamilton Sept. 27, 2010

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