Paul Willie Smith
Grandma Alice Ann Richards in Fielding, Utah had sent a letter the previous year saying she’d had a dream a baby boy would be born into the family soon and his name was to be Paul.
Albert and Arminta did have a baby soon, on March 23, 1926. In Malad City, Idaho, the day before Alice Ann’s birthday, Paul Willie Smith was born at his maternal grandmother Mary Ann Willie’s home. He joined older sisters, Ila and Helen, and brother Bert. (Little Ruth had passed away a few years previously. Sisters Georgia and June would be born later.)
Paul was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Logan Temple in 1934. Paul spent a good part of his younger childhood in the Ogden, UT area where his parents operated a guest horse camp. Always a hard worker, he was a great help there to his parents, and then at the West Ogden feed yards as well.
In 1936 Albert bought a cattle ranch in Ruby Valley, Nevada. Paul would live and help at the ranch part of the time. He attended school in East Ogden. For the sixth grade, he attended school in Ruby Valley in a one-room school. The following year, he attended the Berkley, CA University’s elementary school where Paul excelled. He continued to help his father at the ranch during summers. Paul attended Junior and Senior High in Ogden. He washed dishes, saving bus money by walking to and from work to help support his mother and sister.
Before graduating in 1944, Paul was drafted into the Army during WWII. He was sent to the Pacific, to Manilla in the Philippines. Paul was an assistant gunner in the machine gun infantry. While serving, he was shot in the chest accidentally in camp by another soldier. He survived this along with other various brushes with death during his lifetime.
When the war ended it still took a year to get troops home. He returned to his mother’s home and family in Ogden with Malaria and was extremely ill for a while.
In 1948 when Paul was 22, he and his brother Bert bought the OX ranch in Ruby Valley, Nevada, seven miles north of his dad’s ranch. Soon after, Paul left for Northern California and Oregon to serve a church mission. He was given leeway partway through when he developed California Valley Fever. During recovery back at the ranch, he helped finish the haying and then returned to finish out.
Following his mission, he helped start the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint branch in Ruby Valley in which over time he would serve in various ways including as a Primary teacher and Branch President. He and Bert pulled the other valley church members together, acquired land and a building which members helped renovate, and begin holding church. Later, a new church was constructed a bit more central in the valley.
There happened to be an auction held in Ruby Valley on one occasion, to which a cattleman in the area invited his niece, Joan Peterson along. Joan was from the city, an instructor of cosmetology. They hit it off and after some time, Joan drove her Volkswagen bug to the ranch. They picnicked in the canyon and worked the cattle together.
It took a bit for Paul to give up bachelorhood, but on May 2, 1969, he married Joan Peterson in the Salt Lake Temple. In the next several years two daughters, Jennetta and Julie Ann were born. Paul and Joan raised their girls on the ranch in the home they built there. Joan was the love of his life. Joan preceded him in this life on April 25, 2000.
Paul worked hard all of his life diligently serving his family and loved ones, retiring from riding and other ranch work at around age 90.
He was a self-proclaimed “keeper”. His ranch was always a treasure trove to be discovered by every child, young and old. He was always “Uncle Paul” to nieces and nephews who loved him dearly. Many family members loved coming to the ranch. Paul kept his Christmas tree up year-round. Reading, studying, and sharing things of interest with his loved ones was a favorite pastime.
As he cared for all of us throughout his life, he enjoyed the love and care that his family, good neighbors and friends afforded in his last years. Paul was lovingly cared for at his son-in-law and daughter’s home on his ranch during his last years.
His family continued to enjoy his kind and loving presence throughout that time. He showed great interest in the lives and goings-on of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beloved sisters, nieces, and nephews during visits and through many delightful Facebook chats with him. When they got to talk with him, his family and friends were always in for a treat, an enjoyable conversation in which you knew you were important to him. Paul was easy to love.
Paul was almost 96 when, surrounded by loving family on both sides of the veil, Paul joined Joan on February 13, 2022, just in time for Valentine’s Day. How we miss you!
Paul is survived by his two daughters Jennetta Billhimer (Carl) and Julie Ann Gale (Brian), two sisters Georgia Buss and June Jackson. His grandchildren Paul Billhimer, Sterling Billhimer (Tasha), DeMar Gale (Ashley), Hailey Billhimer, Ruth Russell (Paul), Sarae Billhimer, Nadia Billhimer, Spencer Gale, Arminta Billhimer, and Isaac Gale all got to live on the ranch at various times. Great-grandchildren are Bodee Billhimer and Baylor Billhimer.
Services will be held at the Ruby Valley Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, February 19th at 11:00 AM *Mountain Time (10:00 AM PST) (Ruby Valley Time never changes.) There will be a reception for family and friends at 10:00 AM (9:00 PST) Mountain Time. Interment will immediately follow at the Ruby Valley Cemetery located behind the Ruby Valley Church.
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