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1943 Donnie Ray Smith 2024

Donnie Ray Smith

January 22, 1943 — May 13, 2024


Donnie Ray (DR) Smith of Franklin, TN lived a full 81 years of earthly life, and died peacefully surrounded by love on May 13, 2024.

DR was born on January 22, 1943 to John and Edna Smith of Ulm, Arkansas - the eldest of their 4 children. Taking qualities from each of his parents, he was fun-loving, hardworking, and comfortable both as the life of the party and relaxing in his favorite chair at home.

DR grew up on the family rice farm and attended 1st through 8th grades in a one room schoolhouse at Zion Lutheran Church in Ulm. He graduated from Stuttgart High School.

DR attended the University of Arkansas on a football scholarship and was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He received his Masters of Science in Agronomy, also from UofA. He was proud of hailing from Arkansas, and if you ever met him you likely know his favorite joke - that the only state mentioned in the Bible is Arkansas - because “Noah looked out of the Ark and saw...”

DR’s early career in agricultural chemicals took him to Pearsall, Texas, where he met the love of his life, Sammy, while renting a house owned by her grandmother. DR and Sammy married in September, 1972. They lived in Harlingen, Texas, then Columbia, South Carolina where Allison was born. The young family moved to the Tampa, Florida area in 1977. DR eventually co-founded United Agri Products Florida, the company he would work for until his retirement. He was widely known as a visionary leader in the agricultural chemical industry and enjoyed staying in touch with the next generation of leaders who followed him professionally. DR was an excellent judge of character, valued relationships, and rewarded hard work. He said he could learn more about a person in a round of golf than in any meeting or job interview.

DR was a “cradle Lutheran”. Throughout his life and moves, he was a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Ulm, AR, Immanuel Lutheran in Brandon, FL, St. Armands Key Lutheran in Sarasota, FL, and most recently St. Andrew Lutheran in Franklin, TN.

DR enjoyed telling jokes, playing golf, being silly with his granddaughters, and cheering for the Razorbacks. He was never above leg wrestling in a tuxedo at a work convention. He loved his family dearly and took great pride in his daughter Allison, her spouse Marc, and granddaughters Elaina and Isla. The family made amazing memories at the beach, in the mountains, and any time they could all be together.

DR is preceded in death by his parents, Edna Blumhorst Smith and John Ray Smith, his sister Dianne Smith Chlapecka, and his brother Jerry Dee Smith. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Sammy Lynn Holmes Smith, his sister Betty Smith Buell, his daughter Allison Lynn Smith Bussone (husband Marc), and granddaughters Elaina Rae Bussone and Isla Benvie Bussone.

DR’s life will be celebrated with a service at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Franklin, Tennessee on Sunday, May 19th at 3:30pm.

DR’s ashes will be interred with a graveside service at Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Ulm, Arkansas on Saturday, June 1st at 11am. Zion Cemetery is the final resting place of his family and community members dating back to 1885. Memorials can be directed to:
Zion Lutheran Cemetery Fund PO Box 158 Ulm, AR 72170

This fund provides for the preservation and upkeep of the sacred and historic space.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donnie Ray Smith, please visit our flower store.


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