Giving diplomas to grandkids adds to Smith’s ‘beautiful world’

Like many people in a military family, Warren Smith Sr. spent much of his childhood on the move. His family went from base to base, living in eight states and overseas in Germany.

The experience gave Smith perspective on public education. He attended schools in poor and affluent communities, and he learned that not all schools are created equally.

“What I got from that is that it’s very important for every student to have a high-quality, equitable education,” said Smith, who resigned in March from the Bethel School Board due to health issues. The remaining board members expect to appoint his successor in May.

Smith had two stints as a board member — from 1986 to 1999 and again from 2013 to 2018 – and served with a philosophy that “it’s amazing what kids can do when you give them a chance.” That attitude took on a more personal meaning when, in his second tenure as a board member, he presented high school diplomas to his grandchildren during their schools’ graduation ceremonies.

In addition to the big moments with his grandkids, presiding as a School Board member over his son’s high school graduation ceremony was a high-water mark in Smith’s life.

He also has had his share of grief. In 2011, his wife of 34 years died after a long illness. It was a devastating blow that Smith wasn’t sure he’d ever recover from.

“For the first four years after she passed away,” he recalaled, “it was like I was in a cave, but then I woke up one morning and I said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a beautiful world. There’s still life out there.’”

He reconnected with an old high school sweetheart, and their engagement has rejuvenated him. “Our families say we’re like two teenage kids,” he said.

Warren Smith wondered if he’d ever recover from the death of his wife of 34 years. “Then I woke up one morning and I said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a beautiful world. There’s still life out there.” (Courtesy photo/Bethel School District)