He has served, for more than 30 years, the children of Henry County. And for his dedication and devotion, the Henry County Chamber of Commerce honored John W. Smith Jr., with the Patrick Henry Award Saturday night.
After several speakers attested to Smith's character and humor, Smith sat with a knowing grin on his face, and his wife at his side.
Michael Duncan, the evening's emcee, described Smith as one born to his particular mission. "John W. Smith Jr., tonight's honoree, was born to be a supporter of education," he said.
The evening's speaker Brad Hughes, Kentucky School Board Association Member Support Director, said Smith holds a special place in his life. As an example of what Hughes thinks of Smith, Hughes said Smith is in one of the three photos on his desk.
Hughes described himself as a student and admirer of Abraham Lincoln, about whom, he said, "when he talked, he said what he knew mattered about what happened.
"John Smith has made ... this community, generations of children and the world, a better place."
Hughes also said Smith would listen to "people who "know" they're important," as he did with the young children for whom he has dedicated much of his life.
Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent described one of his favorite 'John-isms," before reading a proclamation declaring Nov. 10, 2007, as John W. Smith Jr., Day in Henry County.
"Don't say no, say maybe," Brent said. "Maybe means let's work together."
State Representative Rick Rand said in public meetings, Smith typically says just the right thing.
"Everytime I've been in a meeting with him, he's always got the right thing to say," Rand said, before presenting Smith with a citation from the State House of representatives.
To receive such an award from friends, State Senator Ernie Harris said, is an honor.
"I think an award (given to you) by your home county and your friends is the best you can receive," he said. "It's your friends that know you the best."
Wendell Berry, the awards first recipient, presented Smith with the award. Berry spoke briefly, but with fondness for Smith, with whom he grew up.
"A long time ago, in New Castle, Wilson Ricketts operated the garage between our house and the courthouse," he said. "This garage ... knew us as the ... Berry Boys."
Berry went on to describe the kindness, gentleness and good humor that were hallmarks of the relationships Smith's father had with others, and added that his friendship with Smith could be described in similar terms.
"Thank you, thank you and thank you," Smith said in accepting the award. "It's so nice to look out there and see a mixture of people together."
Of the stories reflecting Smiths sense of humor, he said simply, "You know, if you don't have fun in life, you're in trouble."
Smith also described his work and purpose.
"I want to be humble ... to help people wherever I go."
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