William "Ernest" Smith

Monday, February 12th, 1940 Friday, January 10th, 2020

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Obituary for William "Ernest" Smith

William Ernest Smith passed away on January 10, 2020 in Woodland Hills, California
at the age of 79.

He was born in the Bronx New York City on February 12, 1940. When he was an infant his
family moved to Richmond, Virginia where he attended John Marshall High School . Without finishing
high school, he was honored by an invitation to attend the prestigious The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he studied and excelled at Latin. The stay at The College of William and Mary was cut short to one semester when his family decided to move to Santa Monica, California. He graduated from Santa Monica High School and then attended Pierce College in Woodland hills, California where he studied Electronics.

He spent many years working for Litton Industries in Woodland Hills, California in addition
to a brief stay in Long Island New York. During the time that he was working at Litton Industries,
his father became ill for an extended period and passed away at age 47. During the illness and
after his father’s death, he and his wife Yolanda took care of and provided for Ernest’s mother and
siblings who are eternally grateful for the sacrifices that Ernest and Yolanda made.

He is survived by his wife Yolanda, daughters Jennifer, Audrey, Caroline and son Gregory,
granddaughters Amanda, Gabriella, Emily and Sarah and siblings Robert, Doug, and Jackie.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William "Ernest" Smith, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Friday, January 17th, 2020 | 6:00pm
    Reardon Simi Valley Funeral Home
    2636 Sycamore Drive
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
    Friday, January 17th, 2020
  • Reception

    Reardon Simi Valley Funeral Home
    2636 Sycamore Drive
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |

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Love, Alfredo, Bonnie, and family sent flowers to the family of William "Ernest" Smith.
Hand delivered by a local florist
Love, Alfredo, Bonnie, and family sent flowers to the family of William "Ernest" Smith.
Hand delivered by a local florist


William Ernest Smith. His father was William Hilliard Smith, his little brother was also William Hillard Smith, so to keep things straight between the three Williams within the one Smith family, his Dad stayed William, his brother became Billy, and my father-in-law was known as Ernest, or Ernie to his brothers and sister.
​His granddaughter, Emily, has recently been researching her family tree for a school project, and one of the things we’ve come to love about the Smith family is their Jewish heritage through Ernest’s mother, Etta Schwartz, and his grandparents, Abraham Schwartz and Ida Babbitch. Ida was a Polish Jew, who immigrated to the United States where she met and married Abraham. In her later years, Caroline’s Grandma Etta lived with the Smith family, where Ernest and Yolanda cared and provided for her until she passed away in 1983, something that Ernest’s siblings are eternally grateful for.
​But Emily’s favorite Smith family fun fact was that Ernest’s father once cooked eggs benedict for the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman.

​Ernest was born on February 12th, 1940 in The Bronx, New York, and raised in Richmond, Virginia, but the family moved to Santa Monica, California when Ernest was still in high school. His father owned a pharmacy, and that gave Ernest the opportunity to work the food counter as a soda jerk. Another one of his early jobs was at the local bowling alley as a pin monkey. A soda jerk and pin monkey; sounds like a lot of fun. As a pin monkey Ernest was either setting up the bowling pins by hand, or later making sure the newly mechanized pin return machines were functioning properly; an early indication of his brilliant mind.
​After high school, Ernest attended Pierce College where he studied electronics, and this is where he discovered his calling. There and throughout his career in engineering, primarily in aerospace with Litton Industries, he had a love for how all things worked, for tinkering, building, fixing, and putting things once broken back together again. A trait I wish I had, but one that he definitely passed along to Caroline, who continues to figure out and fix every problem in our house.
​By all accounts, Ernest’s relationship with his beloved wife, Yolanda, was a whirlwind romance. They met at a local dance in November 1965, and even though Yolanda’s sister Gloria thought it was crazy, Ernest invited Yolanda to meet his mother Etta that Thanksgiving. With his mother’s approval, he proposed just two weeks later in December. They were married the following month on January 15th, 1966 and then began their family when Jennifer was born later that same year. By 1972, with the additions of Audrey, Gregory and Caroline, the Smiths were now a family of six.

​Some of Caroline’s favorite early memories of her Dad involved his acts of kindness towards her, and treats. Ernest loved ice cream, and Caroline remembers many trips to Thrifty’s where he would often buy her a cone. It’s another trait he passed on to her; I still have to make sure we always have at least two tubs of Thrifty’s butter pecan ice cream, their favorite flavor, in our freezer.
​Ernest valued education very highly. He often questioned Caroline and Jennifer when they were younger to make sure they had copies of their high school diplomas, because he had missed the opportunity to receive his and bring it home. This came up again recently, so Caroline and Emily decided to track down Ernest’s Santa Monica High School diploma and presented it to him as a gift. This was something that was very special and meaningful to him.
​By most accounts, Ernest’s life, especially in his later years, was a difficult one. He suffered from mental illness, as many of us have experienced, and even more recently he’s had some severe physical conditions as well, but as Caroline often reminds me, his was also a wonderful life, and that’s what I hope to remind us of today.

​I mention the words a wonderful life intentionally, because the movie It’s a Wonderful Life was one of his favorites and it reveals a lot about Ernest and his own life. Watching him watch that film really showed his tenderness. Neither of us could get through it without crying. In fact, he’d even cry watching the CBS television show Undercover Boss, when the multimillionaire owner of a huge company would give praise, promotion and financial gifts to hard working, deserving, entry level employees. He had a very compassionate and generous side to him.
​He loved movies; old movies and action movies, especially Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris action movies. And with that brilliant mind of his, he’d often watch something on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and call me with a bit of trivia he’d heard to try and stump the chump.
​He was an encyclopedia of information and knowledge. In addition to his obvious mechanical and electronic expertise, he was interested in politics and patriotism (something he shared with Yolanda, watching countless hours of Fox News), he was fascinated with the complex eco-systems and geo-systems of nature, ants, or bees, and liked discussing Bible, history and as I found out very early, even geography.
​When Caroline and I were dating, one day he came to her saying, you’re so naïve. This guy, Michael, he’s lying to you. Look, here, on the map, there’s no Ajax. (Ajax is the small Toronto, Canada suburb I grew up in.) No, Ajax is a cleanser. Well, since we had just started dating, and Caroline knew how smart her father was, and she trusted him, Ernest did manage to sow a small seed of doubt in her mind, but thankfully I was able to show him the Ajax address on my driver’s license and regain both of their trusts.
​And Ernest’s trust is something that I appreciated as his son-in-law for nearly 30 years. Caroline sometimes called me the Ernest “whisperer,” because for some unknown, unspoken reason, he seemed to trust me. I don’t know why, but it was often my privilege to be the one to relay challenging news, calm a difficult situation, hold him accountable for his words and actions, and even give him a little “tough love” sometimes. It wasn’t always easy, he wouldn’t always listen, but it’s been a blessing to have that relationship with him.

​He had a great sense of humor, he appreciated a good joke, and it was always rewarding when you could get a good chuckle out of him. Ernest was friendly, he was interested in people, and he really enjoyed talking with and questioning those he met, whether they be strangers or his kids’ best friends. While it may have been hard for him at times to talk with his family, he certainly seemed to have no problem talking with others close to them, and it’s been a blessing for the family this week to receive comfort and encouragement from so many old friends who remember him fondly.
​Thinking of It’s a Wonderful Life, it also reminds me of few more important qualities Ernest shared with Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey. Ernest was sacrificial and supportive of his family. All of us could share many of these stories, and I hope we will together shortly, but here are just a few that come to mind.

After his father died in 1962, he helped provide and care for his family when his brother Bob went to college, both Grandma Etta and then Mama Triné lived with the family, but perhaps the best example is the one Yolanda expressed to me last Friday morning just after Ernest passed away. He was very supportive of her business. For many, many years he sacrificially drove her literally all over the greater Los Angeles area to meet with her clients, patiently waiting for her in the car for several hours until she had finished her appointments. It’s a real testimony to his love for her, his support for her, and the efforts he made for her.

​And in the same way George Bailey loved his family, Ernest loved and was incredibly proud of his family. I don’t know if he always directly expressed it to each of you, but it’s true. In the quieter moments with me, he’s shared the stories, and yes, he’s even boasted about you, I’ve heard it.
​Bob, Ernest was always proud that you went to college, and of all the success you’ve earned in your businesses. Doug, Ernest couldn’t have been more proud of his baseball-playing brother. He was extremely proud that you both served our country in the Armed Forces in Korea and Vietnam. Jackie, Ernest loved you and was so proud of your beautiful family.
​Audrey, we, your family are unspeakably grateful for the provision and care you’ve given your Dad, a trait I believe you’ve inherited from him. But even though he could often be a tough patient, making it far more difficult than easy, he was extremely proud of you and your achievements, both graduating from UCLA and your nursing degrees. He’s told me, it’s true. Greg, your Dad was also incredibly proud of your graduation from the University of Utah and your work serving and protecting our country. He’s told me, it’s true. Jennifer and Caroline, your Dad was so proud and respectful of you as mothers, and the gifts you are to your girls. He’s told me, it’s true. And Patrick, he was so proud to have a son-in-law who served our country in the Navy and continues to serve as a first responder with the LAFD. He’s told me, it’s true.

​Motherhood, service, love of country, and education; important ideals to Ernest and beautifully expressed in many different ways within the beloved family he was so proud of.
​He really was our George Bailey. Ernest’s wonderful life has touched us all. We’ve all been impacted and affected by him. We are all who we are, at least in part, because of him. Brilliant, kind, tender, compassionate, generous, funny, friendly, sacrificial, supportive and proud. This was our husband, brother, father and grandfather. This was William Ernest Smith.
Comment | Posted at 05:14pm via Condolence

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Flowers were purchased for the family of William "Ernest" Smith.
Comment | Posted at 11:51am via Floral Arrangements


I'm sorry for your loss!
Praying for comfort for you and your family.
Comment | Posted at 01:21am via Condolence

Love, Alfredo, Bonnie, and family

Tia Yolanda, Jennifer, Gregory, Audrey, and Caroline--our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. We are so sorry for your loss.
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Memorial Flowers Purchased

Love, Alfredo, Bonnie, and family purchased flowers for the family of William "Ernest" Smith.
Comment | Posted at 07:57pm via Floral Arrangements

Mark and Maria

We're so sorry for your loss. Praying that in God's grace, He carries you through this difficult time...
Mark and Maria N.
Comment | Posted at 11:42am via Condolence

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