A Life Lived: Paul Smith’s lifelong work was growing Christmas trees

Published 10:59 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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Paul Dean Smith, who died July 28 at the age of 85, was well-known in the shrubbery and Christmas tree business. For 55 years he managed and operated the Ripshin Tree Farm, first for Dr. A.E. Miller, Sr. and then later for his son, Dr. A.E. Miller, Jr. He worked for the Millers until they sold the farm in 2014.
“A lot of people enjoyed his Christmas trees,” said Smith’s wife, Margaret. “It was his life’s work. He worked with Martin Miller of the State Forestry Division and Keith Hart, Carter County Extension Agent, who taught him a lot about growing Christmas trees. Through his work at the Ripshin Tree Farm, he helped a lot of boys by giving them jobs in the summer and during the cutting season.”
David Yates of Laurels Nursery wrote on the funeral home tribute page: “I learned more about growing plants from Paul than all the PhDs at UT and ETSU taught me in 12 years of schooling. I still teach my students knowledge I learned from him years ago. His legacy will continue.”
“Paul was a hard worker. He provided well for his family. Not one time did we ever go to bed hungry,” said Margaret.
Smith also enjoyed gardening and grew a variety of vegetables. In addition to gardening, he enjoyed hunting deer and wild turkey. Larry Proffitt was his turkey-hunting buddy, and they did most of their hunting on Ripshin Mountain and Walnut Mountain. Needless to say, the family ate a lot of wild turkey and deer. “We fried the turkey breast and made turkey salad out of the remainder of the meat. You make it just like chicken salad. It’s the best stuff,” said Margaret.
Margaret made deer jerky as well as other dishes from the deer meat. “Nothing went to waste,” she said.
Smith’s greatest love aside from his family was his church family at Hopson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Roan Mountain. He was a faithful member, serving as a deacon from 1984 until his death. The last service he attended was about two weeks before his death. “His church was always on his mind and heart and his church family was his biggest concern.”
A friend shared on the funeral home tribute page of watching Smith “praise God on the front seat at Hopson Chapel…and today he is on the ship of Ole Zion, to God’s City.”
In addition to his church family, he had a special love for his two grandchildren, Elijah Grahm and Hannah Grace Smith. “He enjoyed watching Elijah play football and this year, Hannah will be a cheerleader at Hampton. He never got to see Hannah do her cheers, but he planned on it. He went to all their activities,” said Margaret.
Paul and Margaret were the parents of three children, Allen, deceased, and a second son, Jeff, and a daughter, Kathy.
Paul and his wife moved to the Fairview Community on Simerly Creek when he retired from the Christmas tree farm.
Paul Dean Smith was a hard worker and took a lot of pride in his work. But, he also was a good father and husband, and first and foremost was a follower of Christ.
“I miss him tremendously, but he’s in a better land…a place where he’s not poked or jabbed with needles anymore. He’s at rest and has gone to his reward,” said his loving wife.
Smith was laid to rest July 31 in the Hall Cemetery on Tiger Creek.

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