A local leader who served God and his community received an incredible honor.
Councilman Andy King joined relatives and friends for a street co-naming ceremony honoring the late Baychester resident John ‘J.W.’ Smith on Saturday, July 21.
The southeast corner of Mickle and Givan avenues was renamed ‘J.W. Smith Way’ after the man who devoted his life to his Christian faith and his neighbors.
“J.W., when people pass we say ‘we’re going to miss you,’ but I tell myself we don’t miss you, we will always remember you,” expressed King.
John William ‘J.W.’ Smith was one of 11 children born to the late Bennie Smith and Willie Mae Holley Smith on July 20, 1948 in Kelton, SC.
Raised in a religious Christian household, Smith was baptized in 1960 at Emanuel Chapel Baptist Church in his small town.
The Johnson C. Smith University Class of 1971 alumnus earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics.
In March 1988, he met Darlene Williams, whom he married a decade later, while employed as an independent Kirby vacuum cleaner dealer.
For five years, the couple sold the Kirby product and established Darlene’s Area Dealership in Elmsford, NY.
In 1995, Smith became a member of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon and served in many leadership roles under the direction of Rev. Franklyn Richardson.
“J.W. was one of my dearest friends, one of our longest serving members and we’re still trying to find five more people to take his place,” shared Richardson.
The U.S. Navy veteran was ordained into the Grace Deacons’ Ministry in March 2005 and served multiple terms as the Men’s Ministry president.
Smith was honored as one of the three men selected annually for their dedicated service.
His extensive resume included time as a charter member of the Men’s Choir and the Peace Keepers, a Laymen’s Unified Missionary Baptist Association member and an active member of the Usher’s Ministry and the Veteran’s Ministry.
As Transportation Ministry president, Smith coordinated transportation for disabled and eldery members and served as a driver for the Youth’s Midnight Run and annaul Sunday School Retreat.
The youth advisor transported participating youth to the Empire Baptist Missionary Convention.
For several years, Smith recruited members to secure toys for Faith Mission during the annual toy drive and served as Station of Hope (Prison) Ministry’s spiritual advisor.
In 2011, he served on Ujamaa Community Development Corporation’s Board of Directors.
Smith served on the boards of the Marcella R. Brown Foundation, the Christopher A. Ridley Foundation, the 47th Precinct Community Council and the NYC Community Emergency Response Team.
He passed away on August 23, 2017 at 69-years-old.
“Certainly I miss him, but I’m not lonely because I feel that he is still with me,” said Darlene.
Smith is survived by his wife Darlene; their children Cynthia Dawkins, Dwight Littlejohn, Shannon Palmer, Darrell Robinson and Jonathan Williams; sisters Queen Davis, Maceo Hardy, Dorothy Pruitt, Vivian Teamer and Betty Williams; nieces Barbara Kerns and Sharon Wiggins; nephew Jerry Smith; his 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.