• 55°

Respected musician, veteran Smith dies at 68

The trumpet and bagpipes are silent, but Martin Leonard Smith Jr.'s music and legacy will live on in all the people whose lives he has touched.

Though many residents could not pick him out of a crowd, those same people instantly recognize the distinct sound of, "Taps" or "Amazing Grace" played on Smith's instruments of choice.

Smith had cirrhosis of the liver even though he did not drink alcohol and had been battling the disease for the past two years. The 68-year-old Ironton native died Wednesday in much the same way he had lived - surrounded by family.

The 30-year U.S. Army veteran was a community fixture, performing at veterans' events, parades, volunteering at more than 100 military funerals each year and leading the annual Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade.

"In the last parade, he couldn't walk it. He was in horrible shape," said Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton, who graduated high school with Smith and had known him since he was 5 years old. "But Marty rode in the parade and he still played. He was still giving. He gave until there was nothing left to give."

"He was a unique individual. The likes of Marty Smith may not be seen for many years to come."

Smith became interested in music in the Ironton High School Band and later joined Ironton's Army Reserve A Battery 455th Artillery where he volunteered for Army Signal Corps.

Smith went to Japan for several years but came back with his love for music as strong as ever. He joined 202nd Battalion Army Band from Frankfort, Ky., performing for more than 23 years and retiring as leader of the brass section.

Back home in Lawrence County, Smith was a familiar face around the courthouse.

He worked for the sheriff's office and Ironton Police Department, worked as a security officer at the courthouse, taking care of the cameras and the metal detectors, restoring the guns on the lawn and just keeping a smile on everyone's face.

"Marty Smith was always a pleasant person. Even in the difficult times he has had, he has always had a good attitude," said Judge Frank McCown. "Judge Walton and I had the highest respect for Marty Smith and our prayers go out to his family.&uot;

Martin A. Smith, one of Marty's two sons, said the outpouring of support for his father has been tremendous, and only now is the family finding out how many people the elder Martin helped.

"He truly enjoyed the community, enjoyed the people. He had so many friends," Martin A. Smith said. "He definitely made a difference in a lot of people's lives."

Those people made sure to pass their condolences along Thursday as the Smith family received calls from across the country, all just to say 'thanks' to the man, Martin A. Smith said.

"On a personal level, my Dad was a man of very strong faith, first and foremost. He was very deeply committed to family," he said. "He took care of us spiritually, he took care of us financially.

"He always had something going on but he was never too busy. But, we truly shared him with so many people."

Some of those people were Smith's extended family at the courthouse endured the loss suffered by Smith's death.

"He was just a lovable guy. He would do anything for you," said chief of security Don Battise, who had worked with Smith for the past nine years and recalled too many stories to tell. "It is just so hard for me to say anything. Š It has been real emotional (Thursday). He was like a big brother."

Smith was proud of his music and enjoyed bringing families a sense of closure by playing, "Taps," what Smith called a fitting tribute for any soldier.

"It is something that starts the finalization, the closing out of his day," Smith said in 2002. "The last thing a soldier hears at night when he goes to bed is 'Taps.'"

Somewhere, a bagpipe or trumpet may be playing that very tune.

A full obituary appears on Page 8A of today's edition.