Wendell Leigh Smith

March 18, 1935 ~ May 28, 2021 (age 86)



Wendell Leigh Smith, born March 18, 1935, passed away on May 28th 2021. He was born in Ohio, Illinois to Thomas and Gladys (McVicker) Smith. He married the love of his life, Helen Marie Giltner, on January 29th, 1955 at St. Patrick’s church in Sheffield, Illinois.

He graduated from Sheffield High School and attended Western Illinois University before spending 4 years in the Navy and Reserves as a hospital medic. He then attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA and graduated with a bachelor of science degree. He went on to do graduate work at the University of Iowa where he was a teaching and research assistant. Wendell also continued teaching in the Biology Department at St. Ambrose University.  He later attended Northern Illinois University and was awarded a master’s degree 1964.

He taught at Fremd High School in Palatine, IL for two years and then Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL for 29 years. He coached in the track and soccer programs, and after many years in men’s soccer he was asked to start the women’s soccer program. Wendell had many other accomplishments during his career at OPRF including Illinois Science Teacher of the Year, Illinois Coach of the Year for Woman’s Soccer, Coaches Hall of Fame, and initiating many academic programs like Earth Science.

Wendell and Marie loved to travel which started with camping with their children, and later in life in their motor home. They traveled to all 50 states and 6 continents where he loved jogging. He joked that he “jogged around the world”.

He was happiest spending time with his family, road tripping, and giving impromptu road-side geology “classes”, watching anything Chicago sports, and eating “his” ice cream. He was very proud of his children and always bragged how successful they all were and that they were spread across the country so he and Marie could travel, sight-see, and visit their grandchildren and great grandchildren. At family gatherings Grandpa just loved to have his sports on TV, sit back, and take in all the family action

Wendell is survived by his six children including Loren (Janiece) Smith, Victoria (William) Iannazzi, Jeffry (Anne) Smith, Brian (Mary) Smith, Keith (Darla) Smith, and Kelly Smith. He had 20 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and one on the way.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or the American Heart Association.

There will be a mass of celebration of Wendell’s life at St. Patrick’s Church in Sheffield Illinois on June 3rd, 2021. At 11:00 AM, Interment to follow at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery in Buda, IL.  Visit to express condolences.

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