After 68 years in the industry, a local funeral director has joined the best of the best in the state by being inducted into the Arkansas Funeral Directors Hall of Fame.
Everett Smith Jr., 88, of Davis-Smith Funeral Home and Crematory was this year's inductee, which he calls a great honor. This was not the first time Smith has been honored during his career.
Smith's career began when he was 20 years old with Caruth Funeral Home in Hot Springs. Smith actually tried to start his career two years earlier, but owner Jack Caruth decided that, at 18 years old, Smith was too young.
When Smith started with Caruth, he didn't immediately become a funeral director. Actually, when he joined that funeral home, Smith wasn't thinking about the funeral home side of the business at all. In those days, the funeral homes also acted as ambulance services. Smith's first job in the industry was driving ambulances.
"I thought it was kinda fun to drive the big ambulance," Smith said, but before long he said his interests started to switch to the funeral home side of the company. Within six months, Smith had switched over to the funeral home.
Smith would work for Caruth for the first 12 years of his career. When he first started, Smith said he had heard gruesome stories of funeral homes. However, when he watched an embalming for the first time, Smith was asked if he was bothered by what he saw. "It was so simple, I said 'You're not done, are you?' It was so simple," Smith said.
In 1963, Smith joined Davis Funeral Home in Glenwood. While working for Marlon and Louise Davis, Smith would attend Landig College of Mortuary Science in Houston. While he had already gotten his funeral home license in 1957, Smith said he didn't have enough money to go to school and become a licensed embalmer until then.
As Smith had already done his apprenticeship before he went to Houston, he said when he graduated fully licensed. "I was really proud of a country boy like me graduating with honors from mortuary school," Smith said.
Smith would continue working for the Davis family until 1989 when he and his wife, Ruth, purchased the funeral home. Rather than rename the funeral home, Smith added his last name to the company. "We will always use the Davis name," Smith said, adding "That's a good name."
By this point, Smith wasn't the only person in his family who was working at the business. Smith and his wife had a son, Tony, who had joined in 1983. In 1989, Tony's wife, Ladonna, also joined the company.
In 2001, Smith returned to Hot Springs when they opened a second Davis-Smith Funeral Home on Airport Road. Since then, Smith has divided his time between the two locations.
In 2011, Smith was named the Arkansas State Funeral Director of the Year. He described that honor as "Wonderful, I was so shocked." His son, Tony, would follow in his father's footsteps by winning the Arkansas State Funeral Director in 2015.
Despite being in the Hall of Fame, Smith said he has no intention of retiring. "I love it, (it's the) only thing I know how to do. I really enjoy the work," Smith said.
"It gives you a good feeling to make someone's loved one look good," Smith said.
Local on 04/29/2019