Harvey Smith dies of heart failure

Published 2:58 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Emmett Harvey Smith, former two-term City Council member and manager of the local Tag and Tax Assessor office, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the age of 59.

Pearl River County Coroner, Derek Turnage says, “He died due to heart failure in his sleep.”

Smith was a 1973 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Business Administration. He was a Master Mason and served two terms as master of Moses Cook Masonic Lodge, as well as secretary. He had been active in Jaycees and served as Governor on the state level and was Jaycee of the Year. He served as Councilman on the Picayune City  Council from 1989 to 1996. He was a member of Ducks Unlimited. Smith was known for his generous spirit, being a self described “LSU fanatic,”  his sense of humor including “Harveyisms”) and love for his family and people in general.

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Geri Grubbs,  Sr. Deputy Tax Assessor whom Smith called “Jayro,” recalls, “He would remember people by their nickname, who their parents were, who their grandparents were, and where they lived— in that order. Once he met you, you had a nickname and he remembered your from then on.”

Mayor Ed Pinero said, “He was a great man, unselfish in his commitment to the city by serving on the City Council. It was an honor to know Harvey. As a  county employee, he brought a good sense of humor to his job duties and in his daily life as well. He was really fun to be around; it was always a pleasure to talk to him when he came down to the office. He always had a good story.”

Picayune City Manager Harvey Miller said, “Most importantly to me, he was a great friend. From 1989 to 1997 he was a two-term City Councilman and he was excellent. He represented this city with the most highest form of character and class. He had so many wonderful friends and family members in this town. He will greatly be missed.”

Miller says, “We would like his family to know that on behalf of the City of Picayune, the Mayor Dr. Ed Pinero, Picayune City Administration, City Council and all of our employees we extend warmest sincere condolences to his family. Words cannot express the loss that we feel. We are deeply saddened by his passing.”

Former Mayor Woody Spiers, said, “I thought he did a great job on Council. We had a great working relationship and we accomplished a lot. He was very well liked and I don’t think that he had an enemy. Those of us that spent time in politics know that you often don’t have a lot of nice things said about you. For people to say good things about him and remember him 13 years from when he held office says a lot about him as a person.”

Longtime friend Lud Pierce said Smith was someone who was fast to welcome you into the community and one who set about organizing groups that helped others.

“Harvey and Sheila Smith were one of the first couples we met in 1977 when we moved to the area. They were real friendly. Shortly after that, we formed a Jaycee Club and Harvey held several offices in the club. Finally, we let the younger ones take over and he became a Councilman. But before that, we started a Ducks Unlimited organization here. He has been helping on the committee and we just had our 33rd banquet. He did the banquet for 30 of those years. We are sorry we lost him not only as a friend but in all the civic work that he did,” Pierce said.

He remembers, “Harvey loved working at the tag office and meeting all of the people. He would talk to them and put them at ease. He loved to go see the Picayune Maroon Tide football l— he rarely missed a home game.”

Kurt Schrock, Vicksburg dentist, said that he grew up with Smith and that Smith’s disposition and attitude about life helped all those who knew him. Schrock says, “He was my closest friend.”

Beech and Grubbs bear the burden of a close-knit office family that has lost one of their own. Grubbs shared a desk with Smith and it is difficult to think that he will not be coming in with his usual smile and ending the day with his “Let’s shut this money-maker down!”

“He was the ideal manager and it just came natural to him,” said County Tax Assessor, Gary Beech.

Grubbs agrees, “He just saw people for who they were and he never forgot them. I know that we will never be able to replace him. We will fill the position at some point and when it comes to doing the job, sure someone can do the job. But when it comes to the personality and who you show up to work as — these are big shoes to fill.”

“It didn’t matter what the situation was in any other area of his life; everyone has struggles. Harvey was wearing a big smile when he hit the door to the office and that never changed. He loved his family and he cared for us here. He gave himself away to his family and the community. His wife Sheila is that way as well. That is how they were as a couple. I am not sure that other people know how big his heart was because he would never tell you that himself,” says Grubbs.

Long time resident, Randy Holland said “Harvey was always there at the tag office and always had a smile on his face. He represented the department in a positive light. He was a reliable beacon, who made it much more pleasant do that type of business. In a small town the opportunity to get to know people over a long period of time lets you build relationships that are approaching family status. For example, you deal with the same banker for 30 years; Harvey was that type of relationship.”

Survivors include his wife, Sheila Walker Smith of Picayune; his mother, Audeline Harmon Smith of Picayune; his sister, Nancy Smith Griffin and husband, Ronnie of Picayune; one daughter, Brandy Lawson of Picayune; one son, Michael Lawson of Columbus, Ohio; one grandchild, Trenton Fairchild; and many nieces and nephews.

Funeral Services will be held Wednesday, October 20, 2010, at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church and visitation will be from 1 p.m. until service time. Burial will be in New Palestine Cemetery under the direction of McDonald Funeral Home.