Ralph M. Smith

Ralph M. Smith long time beloved resident of the Gila valley passed away Wednesday March 22, 2017, surrounded by family after a valiant fight with cancer and other ailments. He was 78.

Ralph was born September 22, 1938 to Ralph and Dora Smith in Thatcher. He spent most of his childhood here in the valley where he was active in sports and scouting. He served a mission for his church in the North Central States Mission from 1958-1960. Ralph married the love of his life, Valene Gardner, in 1964 and they were blessed with five daughters.

He graduated from Eastern Arizona College and University of Arizona with a Master’s Degree. Ralph dedicated his career to teaching. He taught at Snowflake, Maricopa and Safford High Schools before moving on to become principal of Thatcher High School. He finished his career as Superintendent of Thatcher Unified School District before retiring.

Ralph loved sports, and coached football, basketball and track wherever he taught. He was very active and loved his church, serving in many callings. Dutch oven cooking was a skill he shared with not only family but the community. Ralph’s passion was music. He loved to play the guitar and sing. He spent many evenings surrounded by family playing and singing. Ralph also performed with the Old Time Fiddlers and donated his time to play at the nursing home.

Ralph is survived by: his loving wife of 52 years, Valene Gardner Smith; his five daughters, Shawna Hardesty, Mishelle Clarkson (Brett), Krysti Ohman (Lynn), Kerri Smith and Leslie Swapp (Denny); one brother, Jim Smith; and two sisters, Jeanette Barson and Joan Smith; along with seventeen grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Funeral services for Ralph will be conducted Wednesday afternoon, March 29, 2017, at 4:00 p.m., at the Safford L.D.S. Stake Center by Bishop James McBride of the Safford Second Ward. Concluding services will follow in the Thatcher Cemetery.

The family will receive friends Tuesday evening, March 28, 2017 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., at the Vining Funeral Home and Wednesday afternoon from 3:00 p.m. until 3:45 p.m., at the Safford L.D.S. Stake Center Relief Society Room.

Arrangements are entrusted to Vining Funeral Home.