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Roanoke Icon / WW II Veteran Claude Smith Passes At 101

The Roanoke community lost a treasured resident and one of the few remaining members of The Greatest Generation with the recent passing of Claude Smith. Smith packed an unbelievable amount of living into his 101 years, and he would have been 102 in April.

He left school during the seventh grade to help his parents and family of eight children make ends meet during the Great Depression. He served in the US Army during WW II in the Japanese-held Philippines where he regularly ventured solo far ahead of his unit into no-man’s land to scout out enemy positions and armaments. In Roanoke after the war, he built a thriving business and vast real estate holdings, and routinely went into his office until the age of 100. He rubbed shoulders with glitterati like President Gerald Ford and Elizabeth Taylor, but never lost his friendly blue collar touch with the Common Man.

Smith is dearly missed by all who knew him and leaves an inspiring legacy of generosity and daring for others to follow.

The following is his obituary at the Oakey’s website, where one can read and leave comments in the Tribute Book, etc.

Claude Nelson “Smity” Smith of Roanoke, Va., passed peacefully at his home on Sunday, February 25, 2024, with his loving son and daughter-in-law by his side. He was 101 years old and was born in Lynchburg, Va., to the late George Lee Smith and Mary Childress Smith. He was the youngest child and was known as “Brother” to his two brothers and five sisters who also preceded him in death. In addition, he was predeceased by the love of his life, his devoted and faithful wife of 56 years, Madeleine Smith, with whom he shared many wonderful memories in both work and play.

Left to cherish many memories are his dedicated son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Kenneth and Loretta Smith; his current wife, Fei Wang and her son, Andy Wang; his loyal dog, Frosty; numerous nieces and nephews who adored their ‘Uncle Claude” and many friends.

Claude was part of the elite group, “The Greatest Generation,” that grew up in the Great Depression and World War II. We all owe a debt of gratitude to this generation for our freedom. He served his country as a staff sergeant in the United States Army during World War II in the Philippine Islands and Korea.

Claude was a prominent businessman and entrepreneur in Roanoke, where he owned State Amusement Company for 72 years. As a long-standing businessman in the Roanoke Area, he was instrumental in assisting a lot of local businesses to get their start. He was often acknowledged for his active role in the Roanoke community and his civic service. He received the key to the City of Roanoke on five occasions. He was a member of the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission for 25 years, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, and for many years was involved in the local DARE Program.

He served as President of the Amusement and Music Operators of Virginia. He was on the National Board of Directors of the Amusement and Music Operators of America.

Claude’s life was filled with adventure and risk taking such as climbing a 200-foot tower. He learned to snow ski at the age of 63 and continued until he was 85 years old. The many activities that he enjoyed over the years with his family were traveling, water skiing, scuba diving, ziplining, parasailing, hang gliding, dancing, and skating. But his first and foremost activity was his love of flying the many private airplanes that he owned over the years.

Claude was a longtime member of Hollins Road Baptist Church and the Joyful Servants Sunday School Class.

The family will receive friends from 4 until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, at Oakey’s North Chapel. The Funeral Service will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, February 29, 2024, at Oakey’s North Chapel with Dr. Mark Washington officiating. Burial to follow at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens.

Oakey’s will be live-streaming the service for those who cannot attend. Click on the link below to view the service.

In lieu of  flowers, the family suggests that contributions be made in his memory to Hollins Road Baptist Church.

Arrangements by Oakey’s Funeral Service – North Chapel, Roanoke, VA (540) 362-1237.


Claude Smith, at 100 years young
Claude Smith, at 100 years young (April 2022)

On April 28, 2022 The Roanoke Star profiled Smith’s 100th birthday and more about his remarkable life, which you can read here.


Updated 2-28-24. The original story claimed Smith grew up in a family of ten children, but it was actually a family of eight children. The Roanoke Star regrets the error.

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