Rolling Meadows mourns loss of dedicated veteran
Robert L. Smith Jr. of Rolling Meadows, a Vietnam War veteran who spent the rest of his life dedicated to veterans organizations and causes, died Sept. 30 at the age of 69.
Smith, who led the Rolling Meadows Veterans Committee and worked as business development manager for the Cook-Illinois Corp., died from complications related to the rare Cronkhite-Canada Syndrome, his widow, Chris, said.
Though he had bounced back from the medical condition many times, its principal danger is that it makes one more vulnerable to other illnesses, Chris Smith said.
Unlike some veterans, Smith was open about his war experiences and returned home with a passion for veterans issues.
"It was really paying tribute to the people who didn't come back," Chris Smith said.
Smith was as involved with the Honor Flights to Washington, D.C. for World War II veterans and welcome-home ceremonies for the veterans of the past decade as he was with causes related to his fellow Vietnam veterans, she added.
Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Rooney first met Smith in 1998, a year after Smith moved to the city and before Rooney was on the city council.
"I knew him as a friend before I knew him as a mayor to a committee member," Rooney said.
They both took part in the city's planning for a veterans memorial, and Smith's previous experience with a veterans commission in Orland Park was seen as invaluable.
When the memorial was completed, Smith used his knowledge of the Orland Park organization as a basis to maintain a standing Veterans Committee in Rolling Meadows.
"Bob always had anyone who served this country at the forefront of his mind," Rooney said. "They don't make many like they make Bob Smith."
Chris Smith said one of her husband's proudest accomplishments was his co-founding of the Warriors' Watch Riders in Illinois, and then serving remotely as the organization's regional director for the mountain states.
But at the root of everything he did -- work, family, veterans issues -- Bob Smith was a people person, she said.
"He's always been the fun grandpa," she said. "The last decade he's really enjoyed his new role. For him not to do those things anymore was hard for him."
She also praised his employer, Hinsdale-based Cook-Illinois Corp., for giving him the time to be involved with the veterans issues that were so important to him.
"The company was really ahead of its time in allowing employees to get involved in their communities," she said.
In addition to his wife, Smith is survived by his three married children and six grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place Saturday morning at the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, 1330 N. Douglas Ave. in Arlington Heights. A motorcycle escort and military tribute will arrive at 9:30 a.m., followed by the memorial service at 10 a.m. and a luncheon at noon.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made online or by phone to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation at specialops.org or (877) 337-7693, and the Salvation Army at salarmydesplaines.org or (847) 981-9111.