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Published: Thursday, 5/2/2002

Spouse joined wife to run lunch spot

Floyd L. Smith, who with his wife, Mildred, operated Smitty's Lunch, once a popular lunch counter near Central and Detroit avenues, died Monday in the Arbors at Waterville. He was 93.

Family members did not know the cause of death but said he was being treated for pneumonia.

Mr. Smith's venture into operating a restaurant began shortly after the end of World War II, his wife said. With three children to raise, the couple looked for other ways to earn money. Her husband's factory job doing piece work wasn't enough.

“He wanted to run a pool hall, but I told him he would be away too much,” Mrs. Smith said.

One day they were driving by Central and Detroit when they glanced at a building that stored juke boxes. With the spark of an idea, Mrs. Smith told her husband the place looked as if it might make a good restaurant.

They rented the building and converted it to a lunch counter, opening in 1946 with Mrs. Smith and a neighbor doing most of the work. But it got to be too much for them.

Her husband weighed his options.

“He said we were doing pretty good, and he decided to quit his job and come to work with me,” Mrs. Smith said. “I had to teach him to cook, but we did pretty good.”

Born on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Mr. Smith was one in a family of 14 children. He left home when he was 16 to pick apples in West Virginia.

Within a few months, he was on his way to Toledo after learning there was work at a Chevrolet plant in Toledo, his wife said. He had to lie about his age, saying he was 21, to qualify. He was still only 16. He was laid off after a short time but was hired back after he turned 18.

Mr. Smith worked for Chevrolet until the early 1940s, then joined Aviation Electric Corp., a unit of Electric Auto-Lite Co., staying there until after World War II.

After the couple closed the restaurant in 1967, Mr. Smith worked for a few years at a Petersburg, Mich., factory, then was a guard for Continental Security. He retired about 1980.

Surviving are his wife, Mildred; daughters, Gloria Miller and Marcia E. Smotherman; son, Ronald; brothers, Loyd and Clarence; sisters, Pearl Powell, Ressie Bailey, Margaret Butler, Reathy Barnes, Alice, and Lois; seven grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in Blanchard Brothers Funeral Home, where the body will be after 3 p.m. today. The family requests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.


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