Cover photo for Robert Lee Smith's Obituary
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1931 Robert 2023

Robert Lee Smith

August 2, 1931 — August 11, 2023

Robert Lee Smith, age 92, died on August 11, 2023, at his home in Rosewood Retirement Community in Bakersfield, CA. He was born on August 2, 1931, in Buttonwillow, CA, the daughter of W.L. and Frances Smith. He was raised on the farm in Buttonwillow with his two sisters and one brother. They all contributed to the farm chores and learned to play the piano and other musical instruments. Robert played the piano and then the drums in a band formed with his siblings to play at local weddings and other events. Robert began his farming career as a sophomore in high school when he used his earnings from a prize steer project for a down payment to his father for his first 10 acres. He had accumulated 60 acres debt free by high school graduation. He attended Elk Hills Elementary School and graduated from Bakersfield High School, Class of 1949.

Robert married his childhood sweetheart, Beatrice Louise Jones, on February 25, 1951. Robert continued his farming career as he attended Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, graduating from there in June of 1954. He was appointed National Future Farmer Vice President for the 1950-51 year and traveled extensively across the country giving speeches and generally supporting agriculture and the young people that chose that profession. He was President of California Farmers Association in 1951-52 and was elected the Cal Poly Student Body President for the 1952-53 year. The following year, 1953-54, he was elected the President of the California Future Farmers of America. In 1960 he was voted the year’s Outstanding Young Farmer (at just 28) by the California Junior Chamber of Commerce and in 1964 Cal Poly honored him with their Alumni of the Year Award. Also in 1964 he served as President of the Kern County Farm Bureau at age 32. He served on the Kern County Water Agency Board during the 1960’s that was eventually instrumental in the creation of the California Aqueduct Project, culminating in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and bringing water to western Kern County.

He and his wife raised four young children from their farm in Buttonwillow, CA, from 1952 to 1962. They moved to rural Shafter to raise them through their teenage years. He was a 4-H Project Leader for his own children and others, helping them learn to raise their steers, lambs, and hogs, to be presented at the Kern County fair each year. The couple moved to Orange County for 8 years and have resided the last 35 years in Bakersfield. He and his wife have been members of First Baptist Church in Shafter, Bethel Baptist Church in La Habra, Fellowship Bible Church in Bakersfield, and more recently Riverlakes Community Church. At various times Robert sang in the church choirs, volunteered as youth group sponsor, and served several years as a deacon at the churches he attended at the time.

Robert and Beatrice were avid Dodger fans ever since the team came to Los Angeles in 1958. Bob coached women’s recreational softball for church teams. He enjoyed traveling across the United States with his wife in their motor home and he loved their golden retrievers, Annie and then Ali. Whether serving his agricultural profession, his family, his church, or his community, Robert did it all with his whole heart. In February of 2022, he and his wife celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary. She passed away in October of 2022, and he has been without her for 10 months. Now they are together again forever with their Lord in the place he has prepared for them in heaven.

In addition to his parents and his wife, Robert was predeceased by his two sisters, Jean Mundy and Evelyn Scales, his brother Wayne Smith, and his son Brian Smith. Surviving Robert are his three daughters: Deborah Bender and her husband Michael; Nancy Dragoun and her husband John; Janice Blumer and her husband Dave; and his daughter-in-law Roxanne Smith. In addition, Robert was grandfather to Erik, Ellen and husband Brian, Rachel and husband Chris, Emily and husband Jim, Jared and wife Mary Beth, Haakon and wife Chassy, Jordan and wife Natalie, Calysa, Nicole and husband Morgan, and Adam. And he has enjoyed welcoming 13 great grandchildren into his world: Michael, Ethan, Benjamin, William, Ronan, Elise, Brielle, Jarrett, Madison, Carson, Eliana, Oliver, Seth, and Bethany.


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Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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