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Chesapeake educator remembered for caring, guidance

The man friends and associates call one of the cornerstones of Chesapeake is being remembered for his dedication to the community he called home.

Longtime Chesapeake High School principal Grover Lloyd Smith Jr., always known as Joe, died unexpectedly at his home Wednesday, leaving those who knew him shocked and saddened. So many in the village have memories of Smith when he was their principal or principal to their children.

That’s the case with Chesapeake Middle School secretary Jeri Stallo whose three children, Emily, Hillary and Joey, were students during Smith’s leadership.

“He was an educator in and out of the school,” Stallo said. “He was just a wonderful man. I have quoted him to parents when they come into my office. He always had little bits of wisdom that stay with you.”

Someone who saw the wisdom and character of Smith on a daily basis was his longtime secretary Kay Hawthorne.

“He was a wonderful person, the best boss,” she said. “He was just so kind to everybody. All the students loved him.”

The Mannington, W.Va., native was principal at Chesapeake for 28 years with an eight-year stint as a teacher and coach there.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Fairmont State University and his master’s degree from Marshall University.

Stephanie Burcham, Ohio University Proctorville Center director, first met Smith when she was a student at Chesapeake High. However, in her role at the Proctorville Center, Burcham has worked alongside Smith on community projects, most recently on a committee that is bringing a basketball tournament to the village.

“I think it will be a loss to the Chesapeake community,” she said. “I think he has clearly contributed through his leadership as principal. But even in retirement, he was working hard to bring the tournament to Chesapeake. That shows a lot about your character when you could move onto things for yourself but you still want to help others in your community.”

Smith had teamed up with Mike Curry to spearhead the classic, but their ties went back to the days when Curry was on the Chesapeake school board.

“This was Mr. Smith’s idea to get this,” Curry said. “Chesapeake lost a great citizen. He was a very dedicated Panther fan, loved sports. He was a great person. It was pretty devastating to all of us.”

Smith wasn’t idle long after his retirement from Chesapeake schools, taking over the reins at South Point High School for two years. As a fellow administrator, South Point Superintendent Ken Cook had watched Smith firsthand as an educator and leader.

“He was an outstanding administrator,” Cook said. “The students liked him. He had a good rapport with his staff and students. … over the years how he has helped those kids, how they respected him.”

Smith is survived by five children, Kerri, Kirk, Casey, Kelli and Chris, who is the assistant principal at Chesapeake High.

And it was Chesapeake Schools that Smith still wanted to serve, filing late last month to run for the district’s board of education.

“He would have made a good member. He was a friend to a lot of people in town,” Chesapeake Mayor Dick Gilpin said. “He always had the kids at heart. He was just a great guy.”