James William Smith, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on the afternoon of December 26th 2019 at Beaumont Hospital, Farmington Hills, MI. Jim, born May 10, 1928, was 91 years when he died.
Jim’s children will receive friends on Monday, December 30th from 5 to 9 pm at the Manns Family Funeral Home, 17000 Middlebelt Rd., Livonia MI 48154. An Evening Prayer Service is planned for 7 pm at the funeral home.
On Tuesday, December 31st, the Funeral Mass, with Fr. Tom Belczak, will be at St. Kenneth Church, 1491 Haggerty Rd., Plymouth MI. Jim will lie in state at 10 am and the Funeral Mass will begin at 10:30 am.
Jim was born in Toledo, Ohio to Rosa Martina Kempf Smith and Donald Jesse Smith on May 10th, 1928. Jim was a Toledo native, raised in Philadelphia, PA, and graduated from high school in 1946. He worked for a time in his uncle’s machine shop back in Toledo, Ohio. He then moved to Detroit to attend college.
Jim met his wife of 57 years, Yvonne Marie Rochon (December 2, 1936 – June 16, 2014), in college while on a field trip to Frank Lloyd Wrights’ Johnson Wax office building in 1956. Theirs was a true love story. They married in February1957 after a three-month courtship and enjoyed a loving marriage for 57 years. Together they raised a family of nine children born between 1957 and 1974 in the Detroit area.
The son of a stonemason, Jim was inspired to take up architecture when he helped his brother Gus build a house. Jim enrolled in a class at Lawrence Institute of Technology and then “the next thing I knew, I was in college.” Jim was drafted and served in the Army for two years. He served during the Korean War but was based in Germany as a mapmaker. Jim returned to Lawrence Tech to complete his degree is Architectural Engineering in 1960 while working as an architect for Arthur DesRosier.
As a student, Jim won the 1958 LIT Student Design Award for “Home of the Future.” This award led Jim to a job at the office of Eero Saarinen in Connecticut. Notable projects Jim worked on were building scale models of the St. Louis Gateway Arch out of aluminum and models of the JFK and Dulles airports. Jim’s design work for the ticket counters at Dulles Airport won him an award and the counters still stand today. Jim became a licensed architect in Michigan in 1966 and relocated to Detroit to work for Giffels and Rossetti Engineering and Architecture. He later joined Rossetti and Associates and then several years later joined Sauriol Bohde Wagner Architects and Associates Inc. Throughout his career, Jim has designed and managed projects including automotive plants and office buildings for the Ford Motor Company, the renovation of Tiger Stadium in the 70’s, and the Bendix Headquarters in Southfield, MI. Jim served as a mentor to many fellow architects and enjoyed taking his children on tours of the buildings he worked on. Jim finally put his design pencil down in his late 80’s.
Jim is survived by his nine children, Nancy Smith, Patricia (Smith) Shaw (David), David Smith (Barb), Allen Smith (Yvonne), Juliet (Smith) Murphy (Bill), Cassandra (Smith) Vigilant (Mike), Daniel Smith (Marie), Jacqueline Smith (Phoenix) and Rebecca Smith-Cruz (Jonathan); his seventeen grandchildren, Deirdra Evers McGregor (Collin), Ryan Evers (Liz), Monica Batsford (Carlos Cabral), Alan Batsford (Jessica), Anna Smith, Mitchell Smith, Olivia Smith, Maxwell Smith, Josephine Smith, Meredith Vigilant Gammon (Mitch), Kristen Vigilant, Kathleen Murphy, Jessica Murphy, Katelyn Smith, Amanda Smith, Greg Kacynski (Kate), and Rebecca Phoenix; and his great grandchildren Rowan McGregor, Charles McGregor and Isabella Cabral.
Flowers can be sent to the Manns Family Funeral Home in Livonia, MI. Donations in Jim Smith’s name can be sent to St Kenneth Catholic Church, 14951 North Haggerty Rd. Plymouth, MI 48170 or Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: alzfdn.org or to:
Memo: Fullness of Life - AL
21450 Archwood Circle
Farmington Hills, MI 48336
*Checks are to be mailed so funds go directly to the Fullness of Life Foundation.
To send flowers to James' family, please visit our floral section.
Alzheimer's Association - Greater Michigan Chapter
25200 Telegraph Road, Ste 100, Southfield MI 48033