Celebrating LeRoy "Skip" Smith

LeRoy "Skip" Smith - 2017
Infant Skip
Age 3 - 4
Age 6 - 1952
Grade 5 with 2 Cousins
May 1957
St. Benedicts Academy
Altoona, Wisconsin
May 1958
1964 High School Graduation
1967 Basic Training at
Ft. Campbell, KY

Celebrating LeRoy "Skip" Smith

Kae Mattingly
July 2017

What 20-year Army veteran was born on January 1, 1946?  He was the first baby born in the state of Minnesota in that year.  His grandfather gave him his nickname when he was the age of two.  His first child was born in Alaska.  This man worked at the pentagon for five years.  He has four children, three boys, and one girl.  This soldier lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, from birth until being drafted into the army.  This month we celebrate LeRoy Francis Smith, SFC (aka Skip).

On January 1, 1946, LeRoy Francis Smith, Jr. was born to LeRoy Francis and Dorothy Lillian (Hansen) Smith.  He was the first baby born in Minnesota that year.  His father worked for 3M in maintenance, as a pipe fitter to move steam from one location to another.  His dad had two brothers and one sister.  His mother was a housewife, until Skip went to St. Benedicts.  Then she got a job working for the Department of Education for the State of Minnesota, doing clerical work.  She had two sisters.  There were lots and cousins and it was a very tight family.  Skip was born two years after his big sister, Sharon.  On Skip’s second birthday, his parents had a picture made of him wearing a sailor’s outfit.  His grandfather looked at the picture and said, “Look at my little skipper.”  After that he was called Skip.  When Skip and Sharon were young dad would take them after dinner to White Bear Lake to fish at the end of the dock.  As they got older, on Saturday mornings they would leave with friends riding bikes, going to the park to play on the monkey bars, and they would end up at Phalen Lake to swim.  Mom and dad would pick them up at dinner time and take them home.

When it was time for school, Skip had to walk a mile to Sacred Heart Catholic School.  One of Skip’s good buddies was named Dennis.  After being in the same class for kindergarten and first grade, the teacher said, from now on these boys must be separated.  They got into a lot of mischief.  One day, during recess, someone threw a rock and accidentally broke a window in the gym.  Of course, Skip was blamed for the incident.  The school call home to tell mom, and she said are you sure?  Thank goodness for chicken pox, Skip was at home.  At the end of grade four, it was suggested that mom and dad send him to St Benedicts School.  The building that housed the school used to be a hotel.  It was a hotel for cattle drivers in the early 1900’s.  The stockyards were close, so the cattle drivers would stay a the hotel.  In the mid 1900’s, the stockyards grew smaller and most of the cattle drivers stopped coming.  The state gave the hotel to the Benedictine nuns.  The Benedictine Order charged the nuns to open a school for disruptive boys from all over the United States.  Everything was done in a military way, marching drills and parades, where the boys carried wooden dummy rifles.  Skip knew about Oak Ridge Military School in North Carolina while at St. Benedicts.  The school had grades 1-8 and there were 30 boys there.  It was also for the children living in the area (Altoona, Wisconsin).  The nuns really impressed upon the boys how important good behavior was during school time.  Skip’s first year here was really tough.  There was a daily routine.  They got up, made their bed, got dressed, had breakfast, brushed teeth, went to mass, and lined up in grade lines.  It was very structured.  The toughest  thing about the first year was missing his mom and dad.  Sr. Drucilla helped out a lot.  “She was our mom.”  She knew and understood what those young boys were missing.  After school they got to play and then after dinner it was time for homework, which the nuns helped them with.  Once in a while, they were allowed to watch TV.  The nuns planned weekend activities.  The nuns played football with them.  Skip, and his fellow players, also played football against two other Catholic schools in the area.  Every holiday Skip went home, and twice a month, on a Sunday afternoon, mom and dad would come to visit him.  Skip learned to like the school, and the nuns, and he enjoyed being there.  When it was time for eighth grade, Skip was told he wouldn’t be able to graduate from there because of age limitations.  He would be too old.  He moved back to St. Paul and went to Maternity of Mary Catholic School, the parish his parents  attended.  For grades 9-12 he attended the local high school.  It was the first time he changed classes and had a locker.  He graduated in 1964.

After high school, Skip attended Dunwoody Industrial Institute, a private trade school run by several businessmen.  The Institute sponsored Junior Achievement in the local high school.  Skip had been active in Junior Achievement for three years in high school.  The institute offered carpentry, plumbing, bakery, pastries, paint shop, auto shop, and full print shop.  He graduated from Dunwoody in March 1966, after learning how to operate printing machines.  He got a job working for Smyth Printing Press, working as a helper.  One day during his time at Smyth, Skip received a phone call from his second cousin, Carol.  She asked him if he would escort her and three of her girl friends to a wedding.  He agreed.  The next week he picked up Carol and the other three girls in his 1957 Plymouth.  He took them to the wedding.  When the wedding was over, he dropped off Carol and two of the other girls, but couldn’t remember where the third one lived.  She kept giving him the wrong directions, until after 30 minutes of riding around, she finally gave him the right directions.  Upon getting out of the car, she gave him her phone number.  Two weeks later Carol called Skip and asked why he had not call Shirley yet.  He called, they had their first date on July 2, 1966, and one year and six days later they were married.  They wanted to be married on July 2, but were not able to work it out.  They went on a honeymoon to Black Hills and visited Mt. Rushmore.  After working at Smyth Printing for one year, Skip received a phone call from the draft board about failure to report for induction.  Skip’s reply was “I never got the letter.”  He was told to go to the closest recruiting office now.  He did and he was set up to take an aptitude test.  He qualified for printing school.  He wasn’t able to get into the printing school because it was full.  They put him in the Carpentry school.  October 4, 1967, he was officially in the Army.  This date, October 4th, had a special meaning for Skip.  It is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, who is Skip’s (LeRoy Francis Smith) patron saint.

After eight weeks of basic training at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, he went home for Christmas.  He received orders to report to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, 80 miles south of St. Louis.  Here he learned everything related to construction.  Skip said it was like an eight-week course on how to build a house.

In April 1968, Skip was sent to Vietnam.  Skip described this day as “The scariest day of my life.”  He was first sent to Fort Lewis Washington for processing to go to Vietnam.  He was a company carpenter with the 937th engineer group headquarters company.  For a year he built wooden frames for gp medium tents for housing for soldiers.

After receiving orders to leave Vietnam, he was sent back to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to work in the print shop.  He stayed there one year and five months.  In the summer of 1969, he was asked to reenlist.  The choices of where to go were Hawaii or Alaska.  He would be given $2,000.00, but the reenlistment would be for six years.  He could have gone back to work at Smyth Printing Press.  He called the company and they told him they were laying off employees, but they had to take him back, but it would be for only one year and then he wouldn’t have a job.  The economy was really bad at this time.  In October 1969, he reenlisted.  He was sent to Alaska (not his choice).  Skip and Shirley were there for four years (1970-1974).  On April 6, 1971, LeRoy Francis Smith III was born, weighing in at 10 pounds 2 ounces.  Skip worked in the reproduction room.  While stationed in Alaska, they were able to see glaciers and go salmon fishing.

In 1974, Skip received new orders.  He was called into the Sergeant Major’s Office.  He was told he was being sent to the Pentagon.  He got clearance to work in Classified Documents.  He was authorized to mail and copy any and all documents.  He had authority over all documents at the Pentagon.  All the documents were kept in a safe and never left the building.  When he got to the Pentagon he was assigned to the office of the Joint Chief of Staff.  He worked in the message center, where electronic mail came in from all around the world.  He would then send the mail(in the Pentagon) to wherever it needed to go.  They were there for the United States Bicentennial Celebration.  While at the Pentagon, Jason was born on November 24, 1975, and in 1977 Selena was born on February 14th.  Skip had been at the Pentagon for five years and he wanted to leave D.C.  He started working with Army Personnel Records to get his name back on the list for orders.

In 1979, Skip finally got orders to go to Germany for a three year tour.  He went to Heidelberg.  He was there for only one week because the position he went there for was an E6 position, and he had been promoted to an E7.  Now he was on his way to Munich.  He was working in a training reserve unit as an advisor.  He was there for three years and during that time he was able to visit Paris, Venice, Garmish, Oberammergau, and Neuschwanstein Castle.

In 1982, he received orders to go to Fort Brag, North Carolina.  He was in the 1st Psychological Operation Battalion (PSYOB).  While there he studied cultures from all over the world.  They printed documents about their customs, languages (including dialects), what behaviors were acceptable, and not acceptable.  Soldiers going to a particular area were given these documents so it would help them to fit in better, and let the people there realize they were there to keep things friendly.  They also printed leaflets, which were dropped from airplanes, to let people in the area know what to do in case of enemy attack.  While at Fort Brag, Timothy was born on August 17, 1984.

In 1985, Skip received orders to go to Hawaii.  He was in the 29th Engineering Battalion printing topography (maps).  Before 1972, all maps were manually drawn.  After 1972, the government printing offices in Washington D.C. started making all the maps using satellite images.  Skip’s job here was copying maps.  He worked here until 1988, when he retired and became a civilian again.

Shirley and the children had moved back to Minnesota in 1987, to find a house and get the children enrolled and ready for school.  Christmas of 1987, Skip returned to Minnesota, with two months of leave time left.  He started looking for  a job in the printing business.  He started working for Trade Press, a business print shop.  They made stationery, business cards, envelopes, newsletters for some small businesses.  He worked here for two years.  It was a low paying job and business was getting less and less.  Looked like it didn’t have much of a future.  In 1991, he got a job at Merrill Corporation.  This company had its beginnings in St. Paul, Minnesota, and became a worldwide company.  They printed financial documents to do with stocks and trading.  They also printed annual reports for companies dealing with the stock market.  At the time, Shirley was working for Northwest Airlines.  She requested a transfer to Atlanta, Georgia, to work as a ticket counter and gate agent.  Merrill had an office there, so Skip transferred there and became a print advisor.  In the fall of 2000, he left Merrill when his position was eliminated.  He then found a job at Darrell Printing.  They printed everything, like educational booklets, and even legislative journals for the state of Georgia.

In 2005, Skip and the family moved back to St Paul because his parents needed help.  They moved in with his parents and stayed there until his father passed away on April 22, 2006.  Meanwhile, Selena and her husband, Bob, had moved to High Point, North Carolina.  Skip found a house on Birch Hill, where they presently live, to be close to Selena and Bob.  Skip and Shirley bought a motor home for travel.  The last year and a half of Skip’s mom’s life, they made numerous trips back and forth to St. Paul to care for her.

Skip and Shirley have revisited the Black Hills, where they spent their honeymoon in 1967.  They enjoyed Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles Highway and Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.  They have also enjoyed Tybee Island.  In his spare time, Skip likes to work on model airplanes and cars.

Skip and Shirley joined First Presbyterian Church on April 17th, 2011.  He was ordained an Elder on February 17th, 2013.  He is currently serving on the Website Committee.  He has been on three mission trips with the youth of the church.  He participates in the egg ministry.  He has served on the building and grounds committee.



Having four children on their own, doing better than he is today.



Good, better, best, never let it rest, until the good is better and the better is best.

(These words of wisdom were learned from Skip's dad)

Ft. Brag returning
from Germany
Four Generations of Smith Boys
March 2001
Skip & Shirley Smith