Donald's Story

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Donald Eugene Smith, 90, of Terre Haute passed away early Sunday morning, April 23, 2017. He served for many years as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Terre Haute First National Bank and First Financial Corporation. An Indiana icon, Don was one of the most prominent and influential civic leaders in the Midwest. Don was born November 4, 1926 in Terre Haute to Henry Powell Smith and Ruth Irene Buis Smith. He is preceded in death by his wife, Mary Frances Ryan Smith, who passed away on November 21, 2001.
Survivors include his two daughters, Virginia Lee "Ginger" Smith and Sarah Jane "Sally" Lowery and her husband, Norman, all of Terre Haute; and five grandchildren, Norman Donald Lowery and his wife, Bethany "Britt" Bemis Lowery; Leigh Christine Lowery; Jeffrey B. Smith and his wife, Sara Dinkel Smith; Henry T. Smith and his wife, Carrie Esperson Smith; and Lesley V. Smith Bell and her husband, Casius D. Bell, Sr.. Also surviving are 12 great-grandchildren, Donald Hudson Smith, Oliver Guy Travis Smith, Vivienne Sara Smith, Mimi Claire Smith, Henry Keaton Smith, Alexandria "Lexi" Bell, Casius Delwayne Bell, Jr., Shaelynn Virginia Anna Bell, Ella Claire Frances Bell, Caelen Edward Leslie Bell, Norman Forrest Lowery and Mary Elizabeth Lowery; one great-great-grandchild, Daniel Levi Slater; his brother, Robert J. Smith, Jr. of Terre Haute; his sister-in-law, Sally Lou Ryan Russell of Terre Haute; and several nieces and nephews.
Don was a graduate of Garfield High School in Terre Haute, where he was an outstanding athlete and the recipient of the McMillan Award in 1944. He also attended The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind.
He started his career at First Financial in 1969 as Executive Vice President of the bank and was elected President in 1973. When First Financial Corp. was established as a multi-bank holding company in 1983, Don become President and CEO and was later named Chairman. He served on the Board of Directors of First Financial Bank from 1973 until 2013 and First Financial Corporation from 1983 to 2013. Following 45 years of service with First Financial, he was named Director Emeritus of First Financial Corp. and First Financial Bank. Don also served as President and Director of Terre Haute Oil Corp., Princeton Mining Company, Deep Vein Coal Company and R.J. Oil Company, all of Terre Haute. He was a Director of Blackhawk Coal Corp. and served on the Executive Committee of Lynch Coal Operators Reciprocal Association in Terre Haute. He was a former director of General Telephone Company of Indiana, now Verizon, Fort Wayne, Ind., and of SIGCORP and its subsidiary, Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company (SIGECO), now Vectren, Evansville, Ind.
Don's life epitomized his passionate belief in service to others. He was a former Trustee of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Indiana State University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and an honorary life director of the Indiana State University Foundation. He was a past President of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and the Terre Haute Economic Development Commission, and a past board member of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, Swope Art Museum, Junior Achievement, Wabash Valley Boy Scouts of America, TREES, Inc., the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, the Wabash Valley Fair Association and the Indiana 4-H Foundation. An avid outdoorsman, he was a lifetime member of Ducks Unlimited and a past board member of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Foundation. He was candidate for Mayor of Terre Haute in 1967.
In addition to his varied business and community interests, Don will also be remembered throughout the United States as a leader in auto racing. Since 1941, when he attended his first Indianapolis 500, Don's interest in motorsports never wavered. In 1952 he and Chapman Root formed the Sumar Racing Team, named for their wives, Sue Root and Mary Smith, and Sumar competed in AAA and USAC-sanctioned events for eight seasons. For many years Don promoted sprint races at the Terre Haute Action Track at the Vigo County Fairgrounds. He held the title of director of competition at the Action Track from 1951 to 1980 and is widely credited for putting Terre Haute on the professional racing map in America. In 1971 he was named Director of Competition in the auto racing division for the Indiana State Fair Board, serving until 1979. He also became a board member of the Indy Racing League, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation and the United States Auto Club (USAC). He was a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and a lifetime member of CARA Charities, an auxiliary of Championship Auto Racing.
Don was widely recognized for his civic and charitable involvement. In 1977, he was named a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest civilian award given by the governor of the state of Indiana. He also received the Chapman S. Root Award from Hospice of the Wabash Valley in 1991; the Harry S. Truman Award from the Vigo County Democratic Party in 1992; the Business Person of the Year Award from Junior Achievement in 2003; the Paul Harris Community Service Award from the Rotary Club of Terre Haute in 2003, and the Gibault Excellence Award from Gibault, Inc., in 2004. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Indiana State University in 2003 and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 2008.
Family and Friends are invited to a Celebration of the life of Donald Eugene Smith to be held from 3:00-6:00 PM, Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at Hulman Center (Lower Level). The family has planned for private funeral services and burial arrangements with the assistance of Callahan & Hughes Funeral Home, 605 South 25th Street. Memorial contributions, if so desired, may be made to the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, 924 North 13th Street Terre Haute, IN 47807; Mary and Don Smith Fund, c/o Wabash Valley Community Foundation, 200 South 8th Street, Terre Haute, IN 47807-3706; Carmelite Monastery, 59 Allendale, Terre Haute, IN 47802 or to the charity of your choice. Funeral information may also be found at:
Published on April 24, 2017
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