by Kevin Deardorff, TVHS '79
Nearly all of us attending Valley from inception to 1983 were somehow impacted by Charlie Smith, whether as a teacher or coach. Even those following felt his legacy in one form or another. He is a living legend in many circles, and I’ve had the pleasure and benefit of knowing him in many capacities for over 35 years, and am lucky enough to spend most of my days in the office beside him at Lake City Bank. (And to answer your first question… he has “mellowed” over the years, but only to the slightest degree!)
Coach Smith literally built the Valley football program from the ground up, as the former Akron and Mentone High Schools did not offer football prior to consolidation. He had done the same successfully at Triton, after starting his coaching career at Manchester following graduation from Manchester College in 1967,
where he starred on the football and track teams. In 1974, he started a program with JV and Freshman teams on a consolidated basis, even though students were still attending school at both Akron and Mentone separately. The future was also fostered with the introduction of junior high teams under Charlie’s guidance (where I first came into contact with him, as a scrawny 8th grade quarterback).
In limited Varsity play in the fall of 1975, Valley (still with split campuses at the time) had a surprising record of 3 wins against 2 losses. Ryan Williams went on to play Division I at Air Force from that squad. In 1976, the first year of the “new” high school, the Varsity went 8-2. Amazingly, in 1977, the team enjoyed an undefeated regular season and finished as state runner-up, losing only 15-6 to Indianapolis Ritter. Ray Rockhill was chosen to play in the North-South All-Star game (which included schools of all class sizes), but was unable to do so due to an injury suffered during the basketball season. His younger brother, Charles (“Chewy”), played in the All-Star game the next year. Two more undefeated seasons followed, with a state title in 1979.
Charlie was also honored as the IHSAA Football Coach of the Year. The Vikings only lost three games over the next three regular seasons, including another undefeated season in 1981. Coach Smith had an amazing 88% winning percentage during his tenure at Valley, and only lost two games at home, which not surprisingly became known as “Death Valley”. Craig Kantner also played in the All-Star game before going on to star at Ball State. Another Division I player and All-Star was Tim Alspaugh, who played at Purdue. Several others went on to play collegiately at smaller schools, including Scott Bibler at Taylor, who ultimately returned to Valley to teach and become head football coach himself. All who played for Charlie gained maturity, confidence, and poise in the face of challenge and adversity. Most went on to achieve success in their academic, professional, and family lives, and many would give significant credit to lessons learned while playing for Charlie. He possessed the same passion and dedication to teaching, as well as also coaching track.
Charlie left teaching and coaching in 1983, taking on the challenge of a new career in banking. He started as manager of the Lake City Bank branch in Mentone, with one of his first employees being Valley grad Karen (May) Francis, who remains at that office yet today as Vice-President, Manager, and Regional Manager. In 1985, Smith was promoted to VP-Commercial Banking, and further promoted to SVP in 1992. In 2000, he was further promoted to Executive Vice President, where he now oversees
Charlie currently resides in Warsaw with Ann, his wife of 11 years. He is the father of three Valley grads. Michelle LeDrew (Class of ’88), a former cheerleader is the wife of a US Marine and the mother of three boys. Scott (’90), who played both football and basketball at Valley, is an attorney in Warsaw. Youngest son, Ryan (’99) is a professional airline pilot. Charlie states his three “best friends in the world” are his kids.
Remember me saying Charlie had mellowed slightly? Well, very slightly. He still gets the most of every moment in a day, literally. He is a licensed pilot, national ranked Alpine skier, avid football fan (especially of Notre Dame, flying himself to most away games and hosting the world’s greatest tailgate at home games), and in his “spare” time, enjoys boating, water skiing, cycling, and (not so much) golf. We used to play a lot of tennis, until he literally wore his knee (and me) out!
Charlie is contemplating retirement later this year, but I GUARANTEE he will not slow down in any way. He will only move on to another chapter in his life. For example, he is currently studying to obtain his instrument rating, on a mission to lose 20 pounds (though he’s fit as a fiddle), and looking for his next adventure. I’ll miss him being in the next office terribly, and will always envy his tremendous zest for life. Whether a former player, student, client, or friend, Charlie will always go out of his way to assist one in any way possible. He deserves all the world can offer. If you’d like to wish him well or reconnect, he can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.