Sadness came to those of us who knew and loved Raymond Lloyd Smoker, who chose to make Washington County his home since 1988.
Raymond passed away Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Dothan, Ala., at the age of 87. He reportedly experienced an accidental fall while working with horses at the Riding Trails of Dr. J. Paul Maddox in the Alabama city. His injuries proved fatal.
Raymond Smoker was born April 8, 1925, to Joshua Hanna and Hannah Beiler Smoker in Lancaster, Penn. He grew up on a farm in the Amish Community of Lancaster and lived and practiced the Amish customs, traditions and mo-res throughout his lifetime.
Upon arriving in the Orange Hill/Falling Waters area of Washington County, where he had purchased a farm with a small, single wide mobile home, he immediately set up his farming operation in the manner he had been taught all of his life.
Accompanying Smoker on his move here was a team of horses trained to provide the necessary power to allow him to operate the fleet of horse drawn farm implements, breaking plows, discs, planters, hay rakes and hay bailer, as well as other smaller equipment he had brought along from the north country.
Fellow farmers in the area, Gerald Crum and wife, Delores and daughter, Susan, who Raymond knew in his home state, preceded him to this area. Gerald and Delores are deceased.
Steve Quattlebaum, a neighbor and a City of Chipley Police Officer until his recent retirement, befriended the newcomer who had different ideas on farming methods and a lifestyle of dress and living habits which distinguished him from others. Steve made visits with Raymond to Lancaster and on one visit, an Amish Carriage was purchased and brought to Chipley. Steve knew of Raymond’s involvement in administering an Alcoholic Treatment Program on his Pennsylvania Farm in his early life. Even though, this modest man downplayed his role in this program, he would acknowledge that he never experienced a failure in the program.
The carriage, powered by Raymond’s trusty horse, Dorcas, provided his transportation to Chipley Chapel Primitive Baptist Church, where he worshiped when not attending his Mennonite Church. His humor was manifested at church meeting when asked; “Brother Raymond, how are you today?” His simple, and short answer, would be “Grouchy!” He had a beautiful tenor voice and participated in the congregational style singing at Chipley Chapel.
The farmers in the Orange Hill Community soon introduced the new resident to Max and Joyce Wells, the owners of the FRM Feed and Seed Store at that time. My brother and wife found Mr. Smoker to be friendly and honest in his dealing with them. He was always ready to tell a good story in his rather dry, comical manner. Max remembers “wearing shoes was an option for Raymond, in summer or winter, while working in the fields or shopping at Walmart.”
It was in FRM that your writer first met Raymond Smoker. Upon my inquiry as to how things were going with him, he jokingly told me “not so good–I may have to come up to the Courthouse and help you do a little judging.” I invited him to come on, but warned that the payday would be small! He then volunteered this story: “A street preacher was pouring his heart out on the sidewalk in a northern city one day, when someone asked him if he was being paid any money for his preaching. His reply was only $2. The inquiring person commented ‘that seems like pretty poor pay!’ — with the preacher responding, ‘well, its pretty poor preaching!’”
Bill and Brenda Maphis have been friends of Raymond Smoker since his arrival here. Bill, the former Ranger at Falling Waters State Park, moved only a short distance from the park and set up Maphis Tree Farm upon retirement. He also added production of corn meal and making home made cane syrup to his new venture. The Maphis Family depended on Smoker’s knowledge of both operations as they employed him in their business.
Brenda Maphis commented on Raymond’s love of horses in telling the story that old timers in his home state quoted Raymond’s mother as explaining the reason for Raymond’s never getting married was “that he never found a woman as pretty as a horse.”
The Maphis’ attended the funeral service for Raymond Smoker conducted at Red Oak Mennonite Church near Blountstown, Fla. His two surviving sisters, Thelma Grace Smith and Edna Ruth Miller, of Umatilla, Fla., nor the nieces and nephews, were able to attend the funeral. Many special friends, including Ben and Carol Yoder of Grand Ridge, Fla., were in attendance. Brenda reports the church building was “packed” with a host of friends. She said the beautiful singing was all a capella, as Raymond was accustomed to and would have desired.
She further explained that as the service concluded, the funeral tent was removed and all those in attendance, including children, were permitted to assist in covering the grave, which is an Amish Ritual, according to Brenda.
The Funeral Services, held on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 3 p.m., was under the direction of Adams Funeral Home of Blountstown.
Your writer considers it a high honor and privilege to write this short tribute of respect to Raymond L. Smoker, who only after a short time of living in this area, left his mark of being a good neighbor, a supporter of many benevolent causes for the underprivileged and an interesting person to know and visit with. He was a “prime mover” in the annual “Legends and Lore” festival held at Falling Waters State Park.
See you all next week.