Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ernest lived life his way by his own rules

Ernest Smith, Jr
Because our mother, Gertrude, hadn't gotten pregnant in 12 years, she was shocked when the doctor told her she was pregnant. She was about 31 years old; not an old woman. That did not stop her from arguing with the doctor. He had to be mistaken! There was no way in the world she could be four months pregnant! She was still getting visits from her “monthly” friend. She had completely overlooked her strange cravings for fresh black dirt and lumpy corn starch.

Well, the doctor with the medical degree was right. The married woman in denial was wrong. Five months later Earnest Smith, Jr. was born. He was a breech baby, and the doctors had to work hard to turn him around so that he would come into the world head first, not butt or feet first.

Marie and I, his oldest sisters, treated Jr. like he was a doll. He was our baby. We all pampered him and doted on his every move. We spoiled him. My sister and I practically raised him.

The spoiling began long before Ernest was born. When Gertrude started getting bigger, we would sit around her beside each night, watching her stomach to see if Jr. would move. We couldn't afford a TV,  so Ernest was our entertainment. Some nights he was active, sometimes he was lazy and would not stir at all, no matter how much we rubbed her stomach. We all tried to image what he would look like.

Ernest was born December 23, 1951. He was almost a Christmas present for us all. When “Jr.” --the preferred family name–began to crawl, he scooted around on his butt more than he crawled. Our father nicknamed him “Scooter.”

Jr. was a healthy, happy baby. He was breast fed until he was about three years old. When he started walking, he would crawl onto Gertrude's lap and take out one of her breasts when he was hungry. He would get his fill and scamper off to play. It did not matter if she was awake or asleep when he was hungry. He called her breasts his “den-den.” No one knows where that word combination came from.

Some days Jr. was mischievous when beast feeding. He would clamp down on Gertrude's breast, and look up at her face to watch her reaction. He would laugh and laugh. She eventually weaned him when she became pregnant again.

Jr. was not a troublesome child. He was always pleasant. If he had temper tantrums, they were not memorable. I cannot recall him having behavioral problems in school. Our father and mother believed in ass whipping. Perhaps the threat of a whipping was the tool that kept him in place.

I do not recall any girlfriends that he bought home. That's not to say he did not have one. But I know whoever she might have been, she wouldn't have met with my mother’s approval. Ernest Smith Jr. was her only son and she intended to be the only woman in his life until he met someone she approved of.

 Jr. met Tracy Ann Murray when she was 16. He was 17, a time he had signed with the draft "to get it over with." Our parents signed for him to join the U. S. Army. He and Tracy got married. Tracy had a young son when they got married.

Tracy and Ernest were the parents of four sons: Ernest Smith, lll, Peter C. Murray, Michael Anthony Smith, and Terrance Jermaine Smith, who died September 30, 1976 at age two. Tracy and Ernest were married for 26 years before they separated and divorced. They never lost friendship because they have adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ernest met Terrie McCollum October 2008. She said they clicked instantly. They got married in a simple court-house ceremony September 25, 2009. "Ernest" as she preferred to call him, became stepfather to her children Te'Amber McCollum and Ervin Lemuel. In February 2009, Jr. joined Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, the first church I can recall him joining. By then his health was on a downward spiral. He never complained publicly, a personality trait inherited from his father, Ernest Smith, Sr.

Off to Vietnam

In 1972 Jr. was in Vietnam for 11 months. Unfortunately, he was hit with shrapnel and sent back to the states, where he completed his tour of duty. He re-enlisted in 1976, and was stationed in Germany for three years. From Germany he was stationed at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas. He got out of service in 1982.


A. National Defense Service Medal-- a military service medal of the United States military originally commissioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

B. Good Conduct Medal--is awarded to any active-duty enlisted member of the United States military who completes three consecutive years of honorable and faithful service.”

C. Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal --is a military recognition awarded by the Republic of Vietnam to any member of the United States, Australian, New Zealand and allied military forces.

D. Vietnam Service Medal-- is a military award which was created in 1965 by order of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The medal is issued to recognize military service during the Vietnam War and is authorized to service members in every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, provided they meet the qualification criteria in United States Department of Defense regulation DoD 1348.

E. 2 Bronze Service Stars-- the Bronze Star Medal is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service. When awarded for bravery, it is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth highest military award (including both combat and non-combat awards) in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations. The awards were presented in Republic of South Vietnam.

F. Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm– is an individual award of military decoration of South Vietnam, which was established in August 1950. Also known as the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Gallantry Cross is awarded to any military personnel who have accomplished deeds of valor or displayed heroic conduct while fighting an enemy force.

Stricken with cancer: The end is near

Ernest and his second wife Terrie
Ernest and his sister Rose Ann. He died a week after this photo was taken.
Ernest Smith Jr. was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney in the late 1990s. One kidney was so cancerous it had to be removed. Luckily the cancer did not spread immediately after the operation. It went into remission, and Jr. started looking healthy again. He felt healthy. However, the remission was short. 

Upon its  return the cancer quickly spread over his body. He was in and out of the VA hospital. But then the luck of the draw ran out, and Ernest began making his peace with God and himself. He admitted that he had made many mistakes, but if given a second chance, he would not relive his life any other way. He readily acknowledged the good, the bad and the ugly parts of his life.

"I've done some good things in life," he said one week before his death. Luckily, I videoed him on Saturday, May 29, 2010. Before his passing, he longed to go fishing. Like his father Ernest, Sr., Jr. loved to fish. He wanted to see his youngest son, who was in prison. Terrie, his second wife, attempted to get  Michael home to see his father before it was too late. Ernest was happy about the possibility of seeing Michael, but it did not happen. He died thinking Michael was on his way. He tried to fight off death until Michael walked into the room.

On Saturday, June 5, 2010 during the early morning hours, Ernest Smith, Jr., died. Watching him taking his last breaths of life reminded me of our father. He  is survived by his present wife, Terrie McCollum Smith, stepchildren Te'Amer McCollum and Ervin Lemuel; his former wife Tracy Murray Smith, their children, Ernest Smith, lll, Peter Smith and Michael Smith; his sisters Kaffey Smith Nunn, Rose Ann Smith Daniels, Dorothy Charles Banks, Marie Ockletree, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends.

Ernest Smith, Jr., was preceded in death by his baby son Terrance, his mother Gertrude Fowler Smith, his father Ernest Smith, Sr., his grandmother Leora Fowler Sterling, his grandfather Mose Fowler, great-grandmother Pearl Powell Brown of Bastrop, his favorite cousin Charles Henry Rector, and his mother Lola Mae Edwards Chism, four uncles: Isiah Fowler of Washington, D.C., Raymond Fowler, Sr., of Lorain, Ohio, Johnny Mose Fowler of Austin, Mike Fowler of Los Angeles, one aunt Imogene Fowler Gray of Austin. He was uncle to Horace E. Banks, Jr., who died December 18, 2007.

Ernest Smith Jr. was funeralized Saturday, June 12, 2010, 2:30pm, at Mt. Sinai Baptist Missionary Baptist Church; Rev. A. W. A Mays, officiated. Internment was at Cook-Walden Capital Parks. 
Replica of funeral program 

A Celebration of the life of

Ernest Smith, Jr.


"I lived my life. I have no regrets. I made my peace with God." 

God's Creation Began On           God's Grace Crossed Me Over

 December 23, 1951                                    June 5, 2010

2:30 PM, Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church
5900 Cameron Road, Austin, Texas 78723
Rev. A. W.  A. Mays, pastor

Military Graveside Services to follow
at Cook Walden Memorial Hill Cemetery

Order of Service 

Clergy, Pallbearers and Family
Musical Selection                                                                                 

Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Choir
Scripture Reading                                                                      

Old Testament, Minister Ray Hicks  
New Testament, Pastor Archie Kelly

Minister Kevin Wallace

Musical Selection                                                                 

I Won't Complain, Pastor A.W.A. Mays


Sister Alice M.

Special Tribute to Ernest                                                                                                                            

Minister Ronnie Hardeman

Musical Selection                                                                                 

Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Choir

Rev. A.W. A. Mays


Soft Music by Mt. Sinai Baptist Church


Before his passing Ernest Smith, Jr. had only one regret. An independent man, he regretted that his illness took away his independence during the last few weeks of his life. He lived life not the way others wanted him to live, but governed his life by his own rules. He was the third child, and only son born to Ernest and Gertrude Smith, on December 23, 1951 in Austin.

He attended Austin public schools, and the old L.C. Anderson High School in East Austin. With the consent of his parents he joined the U.S. Army when he was 17. He was in search of a better life, and the start of a new career. After basic training at Ft. Bragg, he was deployed to Vietnam. Eleven months later he returned to the states after being wounded by strapnel. 

His  began with four sons: Terrance Jermaine Smith, Michael Anthony Smith, Peter Cornell Murray and Ernest Smith, lll. He re-enlisted 1976, spending years in Germany before being honorably discharged in 1982.  After his military service, he began a new career with the City of Austin, where he worked from 1983 to 1989; he also worked as supervisor at the Austin State Hospital for six years. During his early years he worked with his father at Alamo Steel. An electrician by trade, Ernest worked at a variety of companies until his health began to fail.

He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, and later, cancer of the kidney. Ernest met Terrie McCollum of Austin in October 2008. They were married September 25, 2009, and with this union became the stepfather of Te'Amber McCollum and Ervin Lemuel. 

in February 2009 he joined the Mt.Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of A.W. A. Mays, pastor. When he passed early Saturday morning--June 5, 2010--after along battle with cancer, he was surrounded by his family and friends.

Ernest is survived by his loving wife Terrie; children Michael, Peter, Ernest, lll, Te'Amber, and Ervin; sisters Marie Ockletree, Dorothy Charles Banks, Rose Ann Smith Daniels and Kaffey Smith Nunn; mother-in-law Ma'Rea; brothers-in-law Dedric and Kevin Wallace; and sister-in-law LeAnn Wallace and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. He is preceded in death by his two-year old son Terrance Jermaine Smith, his parents. Ernest and Gertrude Smith, his grandmother Leora Fowler and several uncles and cousins.


Dedric Wallace           Michael Simmons           Kevin Wallace

Eric Timone               Lettrice Moore                Reginald Calvert

Honorary Pallbearers

Labron Billingsley        Travis Shepherd             Ervin Lemuel

Vermon Goode              Brandon Maxwell           Don Wallace


The family of Ernest Smith, Jr., wishes to extend their sincerest gratitude for all acts of condolences shown during their bereavement. Special thanks to Hospice and staff, Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, and the staff of Cook Walden/Capital Parks Funeral Home and Cemetery.

Special Acknowledgements

To my mother Marion Fowler, LeAnn Wallace, Sabrina Nichols. Hannah's Place staff, my sisters-in-law Dorothy Charles Banks, Rose Ann Smith Daniels, Kaffey Smith Nunn and Marie Ockletree.


Ernest's mother Gertrude and his father Ernest, Sr.

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