In Memory

Willis Smith

Willis Vernon Smith

July 22, 1942 - December 6, 2022  | Resided in Edmond, OK

Willis Vernon Smith, 80, went to be with his Lord on December 6th, 2022. Willis was born July 22nd, 1942, in Oklahoma City to Louise Julia Smith and Vernon Willis Smith. Willis is survived by his loving spouse of seven years JoAnn Bryant Smith and stepdaughter Beth Bowman, daughter Shellie Greiner, husband Don and Grandchildren Joe (wife Caroline) and Mary Jesse (fiancé Chris Livernois), and sons Jay Smith (fiancé Kristi Rowley) and Ryan Houston Hensley (husband Chase Hensley). He was preceded in death by infant sister Jo Katherine Smith and grandson Simon Greiner. Willis was a member of Sigma Nu at the University of Oklahoma. His career as a serial entrepreneur began at OU when his sandwich making business grew in to selling/delivering hundreds of meals to the fraternities and dorms every day. He graduated with a pharmacy degree and launched Thrifty Pharmacy and Medical Supply, growing it into several metro OKC locations and eventually into one of the State’s largest pharmacy providers to long term care communities. After selling that company, he started Ariel Group International, an importer of auto parts and other products, and Golden Goose Antique mall. In the last few years, he and JoAnn started Eclectix Minerals and Décor. He was an avid outdoorsman, hunting and fishing around the globe, and enjoyed ski trips with his children and friends. Willis was a respected church leader, scoutmaster, philanthropist, businessman and a family man. He led an active life all the way to his last days and was respected for his fair business practices and diligent work ethic. Willis was a self-made man in every sense of the word. He was loved and will be missed by many. Services will be at Smith and Kernke on North May on Friday, December 9th at 11:45am. Memorial gifts may be made to the Fields and Futures Track and Field Program in honor of his grandson Simon.

The Oklahoman, December 8, 2022

  Post Comment

12/09/22 08:33 PM #1    

Mike Dossey

I knew Willis from the fourth or fifth grade.  We both lived on 39th, and attended the Crown Heights Christian Church.  He lived across the street from John Flood.  I would walk from my house to Willis', and he, John, and I would walk to Sunday school from there.  Willis had a basketball hoop on his garage, with a large area that served as a court, and frequently, we would gather and play basketball in his back yard.

I remember Willis as a good but not remarkable student, as well as a decent but not remarkable athlete.  Little did I see in those early days of the entrepreneur he would become.  After Harding, I went off to OSU and Willis to OU, later to SW Oklahoma State in Weatherford to pursue his pharmacy degree.  I don't know the details of his decision to pursue pharmacy, even though we talked about it.  Others wondered about that, but he was convinced of the opportunities that lay ahead.  So the rest of us take off with our engineering or accounting degrees, and Willis gets into the drug store business.  And how!  So he ends up with a chain of drug stores, and then CVS, Walgreens, and Eckerd decide they want to consolidate the business.  Willis had a good idea of what his business was worth, and when (Eckerd, by my memory) came to him with an inquiry, Willis quoted them a number twice what he thought his business was worth.  And they bought it.

So what does a bought out pharmacist do?  Along that time, there was this development called ISO 2000 that set international standards for all sorts of things.  Lo and behold, Willis gets into importing auto transmissions made in China (to ISO standards).  He makes his second fortune.  And sells that business.

About this time Willis hosted  the Harding 60 reunion at his house on Lake Hefner.  He told me he was getting into the lumber business in South America.  I asked him what he knew about lumber.  He said "Absolutely nothing!   But no less than I knew about transmissions!  The guy had guts, instinct, and self confidence, although no one that I know ever thought he was full of himself. 

A life well lived.  He will be missed.

  Post Comment