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Published: Tuesday, 1/9/2007

Insurance agent was stage actor

MONROE - William D. Smith, 80, a theater actor and director who was once president of a local insurance business, died Saturday at Mercy Memorial Hospital here.

His daughter, Alison Avendt, said the family believes his death was caused by pneumonia following a prolonged illness.

Mr. Smith was a 1944 graduate of Monroe High School.

He began working at his family's insurance business, Smith Agency of Monroe, upon returning from two years of service with the Coast Guard. He retired as president about four years ago.

One of Mr. Smith's enduring passions was theater. In 1948, he and his wife helped bring back the Monroe Community Players theater group, which had languished during the war.

For the next 50 years, Mr. Smith directed and acted in a countless number of community theater productions, including what some consider his most memorable role, as the protagonist Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof during the early 1970s, Ms. Avendt said.

"My dad was happiest when he was on stage and in a play," Ms. Avendt said.

Mr. Smith spent nearly his entire life in Monroe. He felt strongly about giving back to the community, she said.

He volunteered as an announcer at community events such as the Miss Monroe Pageant and St. Mary Catholic Central High School football games.

Additionally, Mr. Smith served as past president of the Kiwanis Club of Monroe and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.

Surviving are his wife of 59 years, Marie Smith; daughter Alison Avendt; sons, Mark Smith and Paul W. Smith, the WJR radio personality; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Rupp Funeral Home, Monroe, and Thursday after 1 p.m.

The funeral is set for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Mary Catholic Church, Monroe.

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