Gamewell Fire Chief Sam Smith – servant, chief, firefighter, teacher, family man – spent 40 years in the fire service working in paid and unpaid positions and teaching fire science while continuing to love his family and to give back to his church and community.
“Smith was a dedicated servant and left a legacy of service to many of the men and women who now serve in the fire service – a true full circle of service,” said the vice chairman of the County Board of Commissioners. Caldwell, Mike LaBrose.
Smith’s career in the fire service began at the Valmead Fire Department over 40 years ago when he became a volunteer firefighter. In 1983 he joined the Lenoir Fire Department and in 1987 he began working with the Gamewell Fire Department as a volunteer.
“I had the privilege of working with Sam at the Lenoir Fire Department for several years. Sam was always dedicated to the fire department and had a heart for the people of this county,” the county commissioner said. of Caldwell, Robbie Wilkie.
During his career with Lenoir, Smith served as Firefighter II, Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant and Captain. He served as a public information officer for the fire department, a fire suppression captain, and a fire safety and life education captain.
“Smith taught in many departments and always studied and tried to maintain the history and traditions of the fire department,” said Gamewell Deputy Fire Chief Keith Owens.
A week after retiring from the Lenoir Fire Department, Smith began a second career at Caldwell County Schools as a teacher at Hibriten High School’s Fire Science Academy, a program he played a key role in development.
In his teacher biography for the Hibriten website, Smith wrote, “I love teaching and shaping the future firefighters of tomorrow. We have an excellent cadet corps made up of male and female students who have engaged in public service as career servants and volunteers.
David Colwell, Principal of Hibriten High School (retired) knew that Smith was the perfect candidate for the Academy of Fire Science.
“When I recruited Sam Smith to lead the implementation of the Caldwell County Schools Fire Academy at Hibriten High School ten years ago, I thought he would be an excellent teacher. In a very short time it exceeded my expectations. Sam was an exceptional teacher. He bonded with his students. He respected them. And they respected him,” Colwell said.
Smith instructed his students to do more than learn the science of fire. He also taught them service to their community. Fire science students often cleaned up the school campus after events and served as honor guards at home football games.
Smith shared his passion for fire science with his students. While at Hibriten, three students placed in the top five in the North Carolina SkillsUSA firefighting competition.
“Sam was a true teacher in its purest form, he loved passing on his passion to others who were also interested. Teaching is an art and Sam was an artist! said Derek Reeves, athletic director of Hibriten High School.
While serving the Lenoir Fire Department and in his career with Caldwell County Schools, Smith was an active member of the Gamewell Fire Department. At Gamewell, he served as a firefighter, officer, acting chief and chief.
“From his career with the Lenoir Fire Department, to establishing the Hibriten High School Fire Academy, to his volunteer service with the Gamewell Fire Department, and most recently accepting the position of Gamewell Fire Department Chief Sam was always ready to step up and lead. Sam was a true public servant. He will certainly be missed,” said Gamewell Fire Department Board Chairman Rusty Dellinger.
As Acting Chief and Chief, Smith sought ways to prepare the Gamewell Fire Department for the future.
“When he became acting chef, we discussed several times how to improve our service. During his short time as chief he made many changes to help us grow in the future,” said Gamewell Fire Department Board Member Brian Whittington.
Smith’s legacy goes far beyond the fire service. Smith’s family and his church were the most treasured parts of his life.
“His entire life has been dedicated to his family, his church and his community,” Dellinger said.
Smith’s friend, colleague and church member, Lenoir Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Kenny Nelson said: ‘Sam was willing to go without to ensure the needs of the others were satisfied. He was a special person for our church and meant so much to so many people. It’s hard to say how much he will be missed. »
Smith had an immense impact on countless lives, and he will be missed by many.
“He was a proud husband, father and grandfather. He taught us all about duty and sacrifice. About integrity. And he taught us about life. Sam enjoyed each of his many relationships with people. Sam Smith is a true American hero. And I’m proud and honored to call Sam my forever friend,” Colwell said.