BOWLING GREEN -- Alton C. "Al" Smith, an owner of successful Wood County businesses for nearly 70 years, including a Chrysler dealership in Bowling Green since 1966, died Tuesday in Blakely Care Center. He was 90.
Mr. Smith died "peacefully in his sleep," and the cause of death was not known, his son, Jim, said.
He was president and owner of Al Smith Chrysler-Dodge, which started as a Chrysler-Plymouth agency. Until recent years, Mr. Smith opened and closed the dealership each business day.
"It was not uncommon to see him washing cars. That's the type of fellow he was," said his son, the vice president. "He enjoyed people and being able to go to work and all facets of the dealership. I think deep down he considered his mission being able to provide meaningful employment to people, and he was able to do that."
For more than a decade, Mr. Smith also owned a Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership at a separate Bowling Green location.
He was recruited by Chrysler to start a Bowling Green dealership --the previous agency was defunct -- based on his reputation as owner of Smith's Marathon, a combination service station-restaurant that he and his wife, Wilma, bought in 1945 on a main north-south thoroughfare before the time of interstate highways. It was on Dixie Highway -- or U.S. 25 -- at Mermill Road. She was a cook and counter clerk; he took care of cars, from routine maintenance to emergency repairs for weary travelers.
In starting the dealership, Mr. Smith had his experience, plus "his work ethic, his honesty, his willingness to be honest with people, and his faith in God," his son said. His wife was a gifted bookkeeper. "They started this from nothing. There had been no customer base, no lineage of loyal customers," their son said.
Mr. Smith served on the school board of the former Westwood district. He remained active in Rudolph Christian Church, where he was chairman of the board for 40 years. He was a Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the Wood County Lodge.
He was born Sept. 1, 1921, to Gladys and Nelson Smith and was a graduate of the former Tontogany High School.
He and his wife married Sept. 6, 1942. She died May 13, 2006.
Surviving are his daughter, Barbara Bushman; son, James; brothers, Myron, Burl, Elvin, and Ray; sisters, Vera Ramsden, Ruth Grey, and Mary Kuras; 10 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Friday in the Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home, Bowling Green, with a Masonic service at 7:30 p.m. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Rudolph Christian Church, Rudolph, Ohio, where the body will be after 10 a.m.
The family suggests tributes to the church.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.
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