NEW YORK CITY — A Kelton native was posthumously honored earlier this year for his years of service to the community by having a street in the Borough of the Bronx in New York City named for him.
In a statement released announcing the honor for her brother, Vivian Teamer said that “on July 28, 2018, the day after the 70th anniversary of his birth, The City of New York, The Borough of The Bronx in the State of New York, honored the late John William ‘J.W.’ Smith, Kelton native, by naming a street in the Bronx after him in recognition of his good works.”
“JW Smith Way” honors the memory of Smith, who, according to a biography provided by Teamer, was born in the Kelton Community of Union County on July 20, 1948, the 11th of 11 children of the late Bennie and Willie Mae Holley Smith. While living in Kelton, Smith joined Emanuel Chapel Baptist Church and was baptized there in the early 1960s by Rev. J.O. Rutherford.
In 1956, Smith’s family moved to Pacolet in Spartanburg County and established connections with Gethsemane Baptist Church. Smith graduated from the former Benjamin E. Mays High School of Pacolet in 1966 and went on to further his studies at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, receiving a Bachelors Degree in Economics in 1970.
During the 1970s, Smith spent nine years as Assistant Personnel Director for the City of Spartanburg. After a visit with his sister in the Borough of Brooklyn in New York City, however, Smith promised himself he would one day work in New York City, a promise he kept in the early 1980s when he relocated there from South Carolina.
Teamer said that in New York, her brother “continued to thrive in his faith by his relations with people and his good works.” She described him as “a man who was heavily involved in both church and community. He was a Deacon of the Grace Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, NY. He was the President of the Men’s Ministry and the President of the Transportation Ministry in which he would help to transport youth, disabled, and elderly members.”
In addition, Teamer said her brother “was also assigned as the Spiritual Advisor for the Station of Hope (Prison) Ministry.”
Beyond his church activities, Teamer said her brother “was also involved in civic boards and foundations, such as the boards of the Marcella R. Brown Foundation, Christopher A. Ridley Foundation, and the NYC Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).”
Looking back over her brother’s life, Teamer said that “in his earlier years, J.W. enjoyed sports such as baseball and football, and hobbies such as cooking. Later in life he met his wife, Darlene, and worked side-by-side with her for five years and was blessed with five children, ten grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.”
Smith, who Teamer said was planning to retire to Spartanburg in 2019, died Aug. 23, 2017 at the age of 69. Teamer said her brother’s funeral was held at Grace Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, New York. She said that the 900-seat sanctuary “was filled to capacity with loved ones at both the wake and the funeral.”
In reflecting on her brother’s death, Teamer said “his friends and family say there was a task waiting for him in heaven, and J.W. answered the call.”