Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Henry A. “Buster” “Smitty” Smith Jr. was born on April 27, 1929, and passed away peacefully on the morning of Sept. 9, 2011, at the age of 82. Henry was a lifelong resident of his beloved St. Charles Parish.

Henry is survived by his loving companion, Cathy Montz; his two sons, Glen David Smith and his wife Marilyn and Gary Lyn Smith Sr. and his wife Pam; three grandchildren, state Rep. Gary Lyn Smith Jr. and his wife Katherine, Rebecca Smith Tassin and her husband Justin and Madison Elizabeth Smith; and three great-grandchildren, Ashlyn Jane Tassin, Megan Elizabeth Tassin and Henry Wilson Smith.

Henry loved people, politics and business. Widely respected for his views and experience, he was the consummate entrepreneur and self-made man. Having started numerous successful businesses throughout the River Parishes and the New Orleans region, Henry was well known for his construction company of 25 years, Fremin-Smith Services, and in later years, the businesses he developed with his sons that he continued to work in until his passing. He was the nucleus and provided the guidance for the development of the Magnolia Companies, a multi-company conglomerate in the fields of construction, marine dredging, housing, disaster recovery, material sales, finance, real estate and consulting on a national basis. He was recently the driving force for the decision to locate the headquarters for the Magnolia Companies in St. Charles Parish.

He was a problem solver and saw each situation as a chance to improve and develop his skills. An active philanthropist, Henry’s love of people was ever present in his attitude as he was always helping those who were in need. He was influential in the establishment of the G. Smith Motorsports Operation, which is solely responsible for many annual benefits to assist the less fortunate throughout the Gulf Coast. He especially enjoyed helping organizations such as Ursuline Academy and was a founding member of the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood for the Disadvantaged, Sacred Heart in Norco and the First Baptist Church of Norco, as well as numerous other charities and organizations.

He always believed in the spirit and generosity of mankind and that everyone deserved a chance. He never met anyone he did not like and, likewise, was loved and respected by most who knew him. Henry always looked for the silver lining and was always reminding those around him no matter what the situation, there were always two sides. He was the eternal optimist and could make you believe that even yesterday could get better. His smile, kindness and sense of humor will live on in all of us.

Henry was proud to have been the longest serving member of the New Orleans Aviation Board, representing St. Charles Parish for over 26 years. In that time, he fought to make sure St. Charles Parish was equally represented, including patrols by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office. He served as treasurer of the State Democratic Party, was an elected member to the Democratic State Central Committee representing St. Charles Parish for over 20 years and was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Jerusalem Temple, where he enjoyed being part of the Shriner’s motorcycle unit. He was a past president of the River Parish Kiwanis Club and a member of the Norco Civic Association. He was a board member for the St. James Bank and Trust and the First National Bank of St. Bernard. He served in the United States Air Force during the Korean conflict and was a member of the American Legion. He was a founding member and past president of the New Orleans and River Region Chamber of Commerce and also served as a member of the State Board of Commerce and Industry.

As a lifelong lover of music and dancing, he particularly enjoyed his time spent as a member of the local Oldies But Goodies Dance Club.

Henry’s other great passion in life was politics. Having become active as a young man, Henry played an influential role over the last 60 years in numerous local, state and federal elections. Known by many as a yellow-dog Democrat, he was well respected and considered by all to be fair, honest and upstanding. He is credited by many to be their inspiration and mentor in the political and business worlds. He was always more interested in the merits of the debate and truly moving this area, state and country in the right direction. His philosophy was to do the most good for the greatest number of people.

Henry was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Donyce Jackson Smith, and his son Kirk Daniel Smith. He was also predeceased by his sister Pearl Messer and his brother Ronald Smith.

Visitation and services were held on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norco, with Father Terry Becnel serving as celebrant. Graveside services followed at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Metairie. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of H. C. Alexander Funeral Home in Norco. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030, in his name. Condolences may be offered online at