Melvin Thomas Smith

June 15, 1928 – Sept. 5, 2020

Melvin Thomas Smith passed away on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, at the age of 92, in St. George, Utah. He died peacefully after several years of declining health due to Parkinson’s with his beloved wife, Lorna, close by.

Melvin was born in Cowley on June 15, 1928, to parents Heman and Edetha Smith. He was one of 10 children. Melvin’s grandfather was Samuel Harrison Bailey Smith, the orphaned son of Samuel Harrison Smith, brother to the founder and prophet Joseph Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

His Mormon heritage and pioneer background played a defining role in his life, growing up on a large ranch in the Big Horn Basin, and he learned the value of hard work and high expectations for oneself. Like his seven brothers, he completed a New England mission for the church after graduating from high school with honors.

In 1952, he joined the Navy, and that same year he met and married Marlene Threet of Lovell. They raised nine children together before divorcing in 1979.

After his honorable discharge, Melvin used the GI Bill to further his education, completing both a Bachelor of Arts and a master’s degree in history at the University of Wyoming. Next, he was awarded a Ph.D. from Brigham Young University. While pursuing his education, he taught at Northwest Community College in Powell, broke wild horses and farmed to support his growing family.

He was a beloved history professor at Dixie State University from 1965 to 1970 before beginning a long legacy with the Utah State Historical Society. He was its director from 1971 through 1986 and grew the Society’s reach and impact exponentially during his term, bringing significance to little recognized historical landmarks. He became one of the premier Utah historians, actively publishing and editing many articles for various history associations. He held the position of president of the Mormon History Association from 1980-1981.

Melvin’s passion for life is exemplified in his dedication to health and exercise, specifically running. For decades, Melvin was continuously training for and completing marathons, usually taking first place in his age bracket. He ran his best time in the St. George Marathon at the age of 52, completing the 26.2 miles in record time: 2.47.49. His love of running was passed on to the next generations with “The Grandpa Race,” the highlight of each family reunion, where he remained unbeatable until the age of 72.

After his divorce from Marlene, he met and married Lorna McCarrie from Salt Lake City and remained a devoted husband for the next 25 years before he passed.

In 1985, Melvin was introduced to “A Course in Miracles” which changed the course of his life and gave him a path forward of forgiveness, healing and unconditional love. All who knew him benefitted from his applying these principles. As a passionate and professional teacher, he facilitated numerous groups, taking them through “A Course in Miracles” and the lessons it teaches while applying the daily practices himself. His love for “A Course” influenced all his relationships. These values brought peace to Melvin for the last 35 years of his life. “Peace and Love” became his mantra.

Melvin was preceded in death by his parents; siblings Rawlin, Grant, Dean and Rachel; and one daughter, Deonne Smith. He is survived by his wife, Lorna Collard Smith; children Heman (Gail) Smith, Lyn (Kent) Gregory, Danet (Larry) Palmer, Dirk (Ada) Smith, Keri (Hal) Maughan, Tana (Phil) Pincock, Renelle Smith and Keil (Anne) Smith; 36 grandchildren; and 45 great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life open house will be held Saturday, Oct. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Club House in the West Spring Retirement Community, 225 N. Valley View Drive, St. George.

In lieu of flowers, people wishing to honor Melvin’s lifelong commitment to family and community can make donations in his name to the charity of their choice.

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