James I Smith

October 16, 1922 ~ January 12, 2020 (age 97)


J. I. Smith, age 97 of Alton, Illinois died Sunday, January 12, 2020 at his daughter’s residence surrounded by his family in Greensboro, Ga. He was born October 17, 1922 at 920 Riley Ave, Alton, Illinois. J.I. was the only son of James Pierce and Lena Elizabeth (Erthal) Skaggs. His father died in a local industrial accident in 1927. His mother then married Ross Hardy Smith of Hartford, who adopted him.  Both his parents preceded him in death. 

He married Marjory Muriel Farmer of Wood River in St. Charles, Missouri in 1942. She preceded him in death in 1985. They had one son, Michael L. Smith, of St. Peters, Mo( Mary Ann Fahrner) who preceded him in death in 2016 and one daughter, Connie L. Slusher ( Carroll W Slusher) of Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Ga. There are five grandchildren, Cory L. Slusher, Charlotte, N.C., Cristan R. Strickland, Greensboro, Ga., Lori Ann Morrison, St. Peters, Mo., Michael James Smith, Kirkwood, Mo., Jennifer L. Crane, St. Peters, Mo., and 11 great grandchildren.  His late life companion of many years, Genevieve Nash, preceded him in death in 2013.  

J.I. attended St. Patrick’s Grade School, Alton High School, University of Ill, Southern Ill University, Edwardsville, and Texas A&M.  In his early years he learned the Baking Trade at Alton Baking and Ice Cream Co.  He entered the Army in 1942 and was stationed at Camp Roberts, California.  

He joined the Shell Oil Company as an Operating Engineer at The Wood River Refinery in 1944. He started as a “Flunky” in the Utilities Dept. He worked in eight operating departments at various assignments and retired as Process Manager in the Aromatics Department, HOP, after 45 years and 45 days of service. Of particular note: He was a major force in the construction and startup of the Kerosene Extraction Unit (KEU) in HOP that produced the High-Altitude Jet Fuel that allowed the U-2 Spy Plane to fly safely above any Russian anti-aircraft fire.  

He was high spirited and determined in everything he set about to accomplish.  He lived in Alton, Wood River and Godfrey all his life.  He was a lifelong Catholic attending St. Ambrose Catholic Church since 1975. He was a collector of sorts with many interests.  He was active in Softball, Bowling, and Golf. He traveled extensively in the United States, Mexico and Canada. He loved boating, hunting, fishing, traveling and camping.  In 1959 he took his family on a camping trip to Alaska over the then graveled Alcan Highway. 

He maintained a summer fishing camp on Lake Osakis in Minnesota where he spent many days fishing with longtime friends. He fished in just about every state in the Union, especially liked to fish for Crappie, Bass, and King Salmon.  After his retirement he loved to work on his “Hobby Farm” in Delhi, Ill. 

He was a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, A Charter Member of “The Legion of One Thousand” at St Anthony’s, The American Legion Post 0794 of East Alton, The Godfrey Knights of Columbus, Council 7804, The Alton Eagles, Aerie No 254, The Alton- Wood River Sportsman Club, The Wood River Moose, A charter member of the B & B Fishing Federation out of Houston, Texas.  An American Red Cross “VIP” Blood Donor and 23-year member of The Newman Country Club. 

Visitation will be held Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 9:00am and Funeral services will be held at 10:30am at Gent Funeral Home 2409 State Street, Alton, Il.  Interment will follow in Valhalla Memorial Park.  McCommons Funeral Home, 109 W. Broad St., Greensboro, GA, (706) 453-2626, is in charge of arrangements. Visit us at to sign the online guest register.


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James I Smith, please visit our floral store.


January 18, 2020

9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Aromatics Department (State Street, Alton)

Funeral Service
January 18, 2020

10:30 AM
Aromatics Department (State Street, Alton)

© 2020 McCommons Funeral Home. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use