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Bruce Smith was a familiar sight around Williston–from working in the town's theater to janitorial duties for several local businesses, and perhaps more familiar the ever-present sports fan of the Williston Red Devils, where he could often be seen keeping the time clock and scoreboard at home games.
Smith, 77, died July 15.
While many locals may not know the life story of Bruce Benton Smith, they certainly know the man himself.
He moved to Williston with his parents as a pre-teen and spent the majority of his life spreading cheer, making friends and reminiscing about more youthful days.
Close friends say it was often tricky to know when Smith mingled fact and fiction in his stories, but no one denied his keen mind that made him a great storyteller.
Originally from Ohio, the Smith family relocated to Williston from Daytona Beach in 1948. Old timers will remember Smith’s father, Milo Benton Smith (1893-1975) as owner of Milo Smith and Son, a sign and highway panel service.
The father-son duo worked this business together on Noble Avenue for nearly 25 years. The older Smith specialized in free hand lettering using oil paints to advertise a business or to simply inspire the heart. It is said that nearly every business in town went to Milo Smith to have its company name painted on some surface – building walls, windows, automobiles, wooden plaques, even Bibles. The Smith’s sign business was located between what is now Lane’s Yardware and Williston Public Library.
The Smiths lived in the yellow home adjacent to the Post Office in Williston. Smith’s mother, Gladys Freddie Smith (1895-1973) taught both voice lessons and piano lessons to youngsters in Williston. Unable to live her own dreams in the theatres of New York, she inspired young students to perform in solo recitals and group musicals which were held at the Williston High School auditorium.
After graduating from Williston High in 1957, the younger Smith enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served 18 months before being honorably discharged. Returning to Williston after his military service, Smith resumed work with his father in the family sign business. In addition to this career, Smith also worked as a movie operator back in the day when films were still shown on reel-to-reel projectors. Through more recent years, Smith worked as a janitor for local businesses including Williston Welding, Williston Door and Millwork, and Crabtree’s Garage and Auto Parts.
Under the influence of two very creative parents, Bruce Smith came into his own fame as an avid fan of the Williston Red Devils. Smith worked many years as a volunteer, keeping the time clock and score board at home basketball games, as well as running yard markers along the sidelines at football games. Visitors to Hitchcock’s Market in Williston can enjoy an old black and white photo of the WHS marching band when Smith played the drums.