Cover photo for John Harley Smith Sr.'s Obituary
John Harley Smith Sr. Profile Photo
1932 John 2023

John Harley Smith Sr.

May 11, 1932 — March 3, 2023


A celebration of life service for John Harley Smith Sr. will be held at Claremore First Baptist Church on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. located at 107 E. Will Rogers Boulevard. A visitation will be held Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at MMS-Payne/Musgrove Funeral Home 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. located at 102 W. 5th Street in Claremore. John Sr. passed away peacefully after a week of visitations from many friends and family on Friday, March 3, 2023.


John Sr. was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 11, 1932 to Ada Gazelle and John Hartley Smith. John Sr.’s Father died when he was two years old in a hunting accident. John Sr. and his mother then moved to Claremore, Oklahoma. An old feed store was moved onto the property and converted into a house located at the corner of Cherokee Street and 11th where John Sr. developed a close bond with his Mother, Ada Gazelle. Throughout her life, John Sr. provided unwavering devotion and support in caring for her.


John Sr. graduated from Claremore High School in 1950 where he was a standout athlete in football, baseball and basketball. John Sr. was selected the first All State baseball player from Claremore and subsequently hitch hiked to Oklahoma City to play in the All State baseball game. He attended college at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma where he played football and baseball from 1950 to 1952. John Sr. then moved on to Northeastern College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma where he played baseball and football, graduating in 1954 with a major in Education. He later went on to receive a Master’s degree in Education. In 1955 he went to basic training in the United States Army stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.


In the early years, John Sr. ran the Claremore City swimming pool where he taught many students how to swim, which was one of John Sr.’s greatest feelings of accomplishment. John Sr.’s passion for sports led to a successful coaching career. He coached football and basketball for 24 years where he had a major impact on a significant number of Claremore students’ lives, including those in his Oklahoma History class. He taught in the Claremore Public School system for 28 years. John Sr. enjoyed refereeing football and basketball games and running the clock for Claremore High School. He spent many summers teaching students how to drive in Driver’s Education.


John Sr. was honored with having the former Claremore Junior High gym (now owned by Claremore First Baptist Church) and the Bishop Kelly John Smith Wrestling Room named after him. He was inducted into the first class of the Claremore High School Sports Hall of Fame.


John Sr. met the love of his life, Lawanda June Ivie, while visiting the soda fountain counter at Will Roger’s Sundry where she worked. It is said they decided to marry after they couldn’t agree who should get the ice cream maker they had each paid half for. John Sr. and June married December 23, 1955 and were married over 66 years.


John Sr. and June had two sons, John Jr. and Jeff, who John Sr. was very proud of and had the opportunity to spend time with while teaching at school and coaching their various teams. John Sr. had a love for the City of Claremore, living there almost 90 years. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Claremore approximately 67 years and enjoyed hearing the Pastor’s sermons and seeing dear friends. He prayed without ceasing, especially for his grandchildren. John Sr. attended church faithfully and was at his last service two weeks ago where many volunteers would assist him, making it possible for him to be in attendance.


John Sr. loved quail hunting and bass fishing, but later in life became an avid crappie fisherman. He had numerous fishing buddies through the years, including several dear friends who continued to take him fishing up until a few weeks ago. Nothing gave John Sr. greater pleasure than to catch a stringer full of crappie to cook and then share with the people he loved.


John Sr. was quite the story teller and loved playing with his grandchildren. When one of his grandchildren was three he would tell a story about the dinosaur under the Verdigris bridge. His grandson’s eyes would get big as saucers before exclaiming, “Tell me about the dinosaur again!”


John Sr. is preceded in death by his parents and wife, June. He is survived by his son John Jr. and wife Shirley Kay, grandsons Hayden and wife Ivy, Garrett and wife Claire, son Jeff and wife Jeanne, granddaughter Katie, grandsons Jacob, Daniel and fiancé Paxton Lundquist, and Matt, nephew Max and wife Jeannie Wallace, great nieces Miranda and husband Joe Woods, daughter Mackenzie, and Marcie and husband Chris Hill, sons Gage and Gunner.


In lieu of flowers, if so inclined, please make donations in honor of John Smith Sr. to the Claremore Baseball Dugout Club. Checks can be made out to Claremore Baseball Dugout Club and mailed to PO Box 2972, Claremore, OK 74018 or Venmo under Johnnye Brown @Claremore-baseball.


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Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

4:00 - 6:00 pm (Central time)

MMS-Payne Funeral Home and Cremation Services-Claremore

102 W 5th St, Claremore, OK 74017

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Central time)

First Baptist Church of Claremore

107 E Will Rogers Blvd, Claremore, OK 74017

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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