Leland “Lee”, “Smitty” E. Smits, passed away on Saturday, March 6th, 2021 at the age of 93.
Friends may call at the Proko-Wall Funeral Home, 1630 E. Mason St., on Thursday, April 22, 2021 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. A memorial service will be held at 6:00 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home with Chaplain Josh Viste officiating. To view the livestream, please visit the Proko-Wall Funeral Home Facebook page at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.
He was born on November 16, 1927 in West De Pere, WI, to the late Peter and Violet (VanSustern) Smits. Lee was the youngest of 5 siblings’ growing up on Oak St. in De Pere surrounded by his brother, 3 sisters and their cousins that lived across the street. In January of 1946, Lee enlisted into the Military. He was decorated with the Army of Occupation Medal – Japan and World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged in June of 1948. Lee met his bride of 63 years, Bette J. Kispert at Bill’s Bar in West De Pere where they both loved to go dancing. They were married April 7th, 1951 and together they raised four children, Leanne, Gary, Amy and Patrick. After his discharge from the Army in 1948, Lee worked in the auto industry selling car parts and automobiles. In 1954, he was hired at “The Green Bay Press Gazette”. Lee started his 31 year career in the Classified Advertising Department – outside sales. In 1959, he moved to Retail Advertising. In 1965, he was promoted to Retail Advertising Manager then in 1971 he was promoted to Assistant Advertising Director. He served on the Press-Gazette’s management committee from 1981 through his retirement in 1985. Lee attended the American Press Institute at Columbia University. He was an associate member of the International Newspaper Advertising and Marketing Executives Association and President of the Wisconsin Newspaper Advertising Executives Association. Soon after retirement, Lee and Bette sold their home in Green Bay moving to Pembine Wis. into an A-framed cabin custom designed and hand constructed by himself, Milroy Krieger and many other family members and friends. Over the next 14 years they spent their summer months in Pembine and their winter months in south Florida were they enjoyed time with their daughter Amy and her family Randy and Jennifer. In 1997, Lee and Bette sold their retreat in the woods and moved to Clintonville, Wis. There they built a home, custom designed by himself, on a few acres next to their son, Gary “Butch”, Diane and family. Lee and Bette still continued being “snow birds” (spending summers in the north and winters in the south) until Bette’s health issues 2010. After Bette’s passing in 2013 Lee continued living independently in Clintonville spending winters in Tennessee where daughter Amy and family had previously lived. In 2018, Lee moved to Emerald Bay Retirement Community in Hobart where his sister Hazel was also living. The two siblings were blessed being able to spend time together once again in their later years. Lee led an active life. He enjoyed dancing, golf, camping, traveling, hunting, fishing, playing cards, bowling and playing his harmonica. His brightest passions were playing pool (billiards), oil painting, and listening to music. He started sketching in his early teens. His sisters recognized that talent, buying him his first set of oil paints at the age of 14. He continued oil painting up through the age of 91 but unfortunately after some health issues that passion slipped away. Up to his death, he continued listening to music and playing the harmonica.
Lee is survived by his two sons, Gary (Diane) Smits, Appleton; Patrick (Lisa) Smits, Green Bay; daughter, Amy (Randy) VanDenHeuvel, Clintonville; son-in-law, James Olds, The Villages, FL., seven grandchildren, Kristen Olds (Robyn Laskowski), Des Moines IA; Matthew (Heather) Olds, Port Orchard WA ; Amber (Ben) Garrity, Appleton; Rachel (Christopher) Heinen, Kiel; Jennifer VanDenHeuvel, Hobe Sound FL.; Lucas Smits (Shelby Bradley), Lake Odesa MI; Austin Smits, Green Bay; and four great-grandchildren.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Bette Smits, daughter, Leanne Olds, sisters, Evelyn Sparr, Hazel Thomas, Lilamae (McDaniel, Swenson) and brother, Raymond.
Thank you to Emerald Bay Retirement Community specifically to the staff of the Memory Care Unit for the remarkable care given to our dad every day. You guys ‘Rock”.
A warm, heartfelt thank you to the team at Heartland Hospice for your unsurpassed support and the compassionate care given to our dad for over two year and especially during his last few days. You’re the “Best”.
Lee, like many Wisconsinites, looked forward to their daily Happy Hour. Please make a toast in his honor, cheers!
Friends may call at the Proko-Wall Funeral Home, 1630 E. Mason St., on Thursday, April 22, 2021 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. A memorial service will be held at 6:00 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home with Chaplain Josh Viste officiating. To view the livestream, please visit the Proko-Wall Funeral Home Facebook page at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. Memorials may be forwarded to the family through Proko-Wall Funeral Home, 1630 E. Mason St. Green Bay, WI 54302. Please write “Leland Smits family” on the envelope. Online condolences may be expressed at www.prokowall.com.