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Kearney Isaac Smith
March 15, 1937 ~ November 9, 2023 (age 86) 86 Years Old
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Kearney Isaac Smith of the Jacks Creek community passed away on November 9th, 2023. Kearney grew up in Rowan County, NC on the family farm of Mack and Mardre Smith. He was the sixth of twelve children in the family. In 1955 Kearney left school to join the U.S. Marine Corps, serving from 1955 – 1959. During his time in service in Japan he obtained his GED, and upon his return to the states he pursued higher education, studying English at Charlotte College and earning his Bachelor’s degree in 1966. Kearney was president of the first graduating class from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He received his Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1968 and his PhD from the University of Georgia in 1973. Dr. Smith taught English at Furman University in South Carolina, Lee College in Tennessee, and spent most of his teaching career at Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, NC. He was known to greet his classes with an enthusiastic, “Good morning, scholars!” during his many years at Mayland.
Kearney and his wife Catherine raised their family in Yancey County, NC. He was a man blessed with many talents and interests. He had a love of sailing, and as a young man built a 14-foot sailboat that he and his brothers and father sailed on area lakes. Years later at age 75 he realized a lifelong dream when he bought a 24-foot sloop, the Dana, which he enjoyed sailing with son Stephen and other family and friends along the NC coast. Kearney was an avid reader, writer, and poet. He edited and published books including the memoirs of his mother, Mardre Horne Smith, and the journals of his older brother Lawrence describing his time serving in the Navy aboard LCS 11 during World War II. Kearney was an artist, and many of his loved ones have his watercolor and oil paintings on their walls. In 1976 he was commissioned to paint a mural on an interior wall of the Little Switzerland Post Office in honor of our nation’s Bicentennial and the celebrations taking place in Mitchell County that year. The mural depicts a mountain scene like many along the overlooks of the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway and is still there to this day. For many years his family and friends looked for and received Christmas cards that he created with his own artwork and poetry. Some of these cards had Christmas carols that he wrote in collaboration with his son Stephen. Kearney was a self-taught musician, playing the guitar, the violin, and the recorder; and singing tenor and bass in church and community choirs and in his own family quartet for many years. Kearney and his wife Catherine became licensed radio operators and were active in the local HAM radio community for several years, volunteering at many races and other events. They loved travel and took many camping trips to National Parks and other public lands in the west. In the early 1960s Kearney worked as a bus driver (“gearjammer”) in Yellowstone National Park, driving one of the distinctive yellow buses taking tourists around the park. In more recent years he and Catherine enjoyed travels to Europe.
Kearney was preceded in death by his parents, Mack and Mardre Smith; by seven brothers – Lawrence, Jack, Paul, Duane, Bruce, Kenneth, and Danny; and by two sisters, Annie and Carol. Cherishing his memory are his wife of fifty-nine years, Catherine; two sisters – Janet (and husband Robert), and Patsy; a brother-in-law Tom Jenrette; his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Rich; his son Stephen and his wife Brenda; two grandchildren – Isaac and Rachel; two step-grandchildren – Dane (and wife Paige) and Jena (and husband Garren); and many nephews, nieces, cousins, and other loved ones and friends.
A celebration of Kearney’s life will be held at a later date.
The family would like to express their appreciation to the nurses and staff at The Greens in Spruce Pine, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, and CarePartners Solace Hospice Center for their skilled and compassionate care, and to our loved ones and our church families for their support and prayers during this time. God bless you all. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Disabled American Veterans https://www.dav.org/.
Holcombe Brothers Funeral Home is respectfully serving the Smith family.