Cover photo for Robert  Eugene (Gene) Smith's Obituary
Robert  Eugene (Gene) Smith Profile Photo

Robert Eugene (Gene) Smith

d. February 27, 2020

1940 - 2020

Gene was born in Bakersfield, California in September of 1940 to Donald and Allie Smith. He passed peacefully at the age of 79. He was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend.

Gene never met a stranger. He was a great orator and was truly gifted in captivating an audience with his charm and quick wit. He told great stories and freely gave life advice to anyone in need of help or direction, pulling from the experiences he collected over his exciting life and successful career.

Gene grew up on an alfalfa farm in the south fork of the Kern River Valley with his parents and his older brother Wayne (Speed) Smith.

He graduated from Kern Valley High School in 1958 as the class President and member of the FFA. Gene was a gifted "southpaw" and not only loved sports but was an outstanding athlete all around. He attended Bakersfield College and then went on to earn his degree as the youngest graduate of the Washington College / Pacific Coast Banking School.

Gene married his high school sweetheart JoAnn Wilson in 1959 and later they had 2 children, Greg and Wendy.

Gene went to work for Community National Bank in Bakersfield in 1960, then transferred to the Ridgecrest branch. He was proud to be an Army reservist, serving as a medic from 1963-1969. During this time, he was also a member of the Ridgecrest Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce. In 1969 he transferred back to Bakersfield where he held several administrative positions and was appointed Sr. Vice President, working in this position until 1982.

In May of 1982 Gene's wife JoAnn passed away tragically after a brief illness. That same year he became President/CEO and the founding director of Taft National Bank, beginning a new chapter in his life.

In 1983 Gene married his current wife Joanna. Joanna had two children from a previous marriage, Shelley & Terry.

Gene served as a member and eventually President of the Taft Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Taft Rotary Club, and a member of the West Side Petroleum Club. He retired from Taft National Bank in 2000.

Golf was Gene's favorite pastime and he was a 30+ year member of the Bakersfield Country Club. He and Joanna traveled the world to play the game they loved, and he treasured every moment they spent together. In 1989 he was appointed to the Board of Commissioners of the Kern County Housing Authority by then Supervisor Carl Hettinger. At the time of his passing, he had the distinction of being the longest serving commissioner on that board. Gene went on to chair several non-profits in Kern County and those became his primary focus over the last 30 years.

He is preceded in death by his parents, his 1st wife JoAnn and grandson Justin Messerschmidt.

He is survived by his Brother Donald Wayne (Speed) Smith of Colorado, wife Joanna K. Smith of Bakersfield, (2) sons Greg (Laura) Smith and Terry (Linda) Craig, (2) daughters Wendy (Michael) Kaess and Shelley Messerschmidt: (11) grandchildren Joseph (Kristin) Solis, Jennifer (Sean) Mclean, Laura (Buddy) Burton, Kyle (Elise) Johnson, Aric Craig, Kyrsten Smith/Baker, Beau (Kayla) Johnson, Alyssa (Daniel) Wise, Jordan Craig, Morgan Kaess & Andie Kaess and (21) beautiful great grandchildren, countless family members, wonderful friends, neighbors and colleagues who were all family to Gene, whom he loved and cherished.

No funeral services are scheduled at Gene's request.

Family will be hosting a celebration of life on March 7, 2020. Please look to Facebook or reach out to family members for more information. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Gene's name to your favorite charity.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Eugene (Gene) Smith, please visit our flower store.


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