Wayne Smithers ’64

Wayne was born in a small town in Virginia, but as sometimes happens, this did not keep him from making his life large, and making himself known in the world in ways no one could have quite predicted.

He grew up in a tight knit family, bonded closely to siblings that he loved and a father that taught him one of the greatest joys of his life, how to dance. Throughout his life, Wayne would dance. Not on stage, but in grocery store aisles, parking lots, living rooms, and in the end, even in the Memory Care home with his caretakers, graciously taking nurses nearby for a spin, a dip, a twirl. You see, for Wayne, a polite, introverted Southern gentleman, dance was his spirit let loose. And that was something he just had to share.

So yes, he went on to colleges and MBA’s at Wharton, he served one of the hardest jobs in the military during the Vietnam War (letting families of fallen warriors know that their children had died in combat, flag in hand), and eventually to lead multi-national oil conglomerates around the world.

Yes, he did great things in a career, but he always said that that part of his life didn’t matter to him. He married a pretty blonde translator from the United Nations that he met at a cocktail party, and went on to have a family. He moved from New York to London and traveled the world, eventually settling in Houston, all the while adding two children, three dogs, and multiple friends and extended family along the way. This was what made Wayne happy.

He said that when he saw his children laughing, that let him know that he had done the right thing with his life.

Later in life, he was lucky enough to meet a great love, and marry her, as well. This was a woman who would transform his life even further, opening up his world to travel he didn’t know possible, to children and grandchildren and babies who would sleep on his chest. In this chapter he became known as “the baby whisperer” . . . which gave him such pride. He loved children, because they understood his energy, they thrived on his kindness.

He found love at a time when he thought that chapter was written and done. He found a dance partner even more enthusiastic than he himself ever was. She taught him to tango, she took him out on dance floors around the world.

He passed too soon. We say this often of people, perhaps because we don’t believe there is ever a right time to die.


He also left much behind. And what he left will linger. A life well lived that is an example to everyone. A family, multi-generational, and modern, and layered, that loves and thrives and extends even to this day. Wisdom and kindness that we each must remember and keep alive, as reminders OF him and TO ourselves.

And of course, the love of a good dance. Something we all need to remember how to let go of ourselves and give into, often, and in his honor.


Published in Houston Chronicle on Oct. 20, 2015