Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wayne Smith remembered as father and designer of more than 100 churches in the Diocese of Winona

Sydney Smith laughs when she remembers the dress — the one that “looked like blueprints” — even after all these years. Her parents bought the unusual garment for her in third grade, and when the little girl questioned the design, her mom gave her a simple reply.

“My mom said it was good for business,” Sydney said, chuckling at the memory.

Her father’s business, W-Smith Architectural & Engineering Service of Winona, enjoyed many successes over the years, though few were likely related to the dress. W. Wayne Smith started his own firm and designed hundreds of buildings across the Midwest.

Smith, 85, died April 21.

While few Winona residents may recognize his name, most see his work every day. He designed and helped construct many of the city’s most well-known structures, including the Law Enforcement Center, Joseph Page Theatre on the Winona campus of Saint Mary’s University and Winona State University’s Performing Arts Center.

“I couldn’t have imagined him doing anything else,” Sydney said. “He was very creative.”

Smith was also very proud, his brother Charles Smith said. Proud of his military service; Smith was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. Proud of his family; he was married to his wife, Phyllis, for 63 years when he died, and the couple had seven children. Proud of his faith; one of eight children, he graduated from Cotter High School in 1942 and the University of Notre Dame in 1948.

And very proud of his work, which he was always talking about, Charles said. Smith worked for two different firms, even supervising the construction of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Church, before he started his own business in 1954.

Smith quickly established his own reputation in the area, designing buildings for area municipalities, colleges and businesses. Sydney and her siblings quickly became accustomed to attending ground-breaking and dedication ceremonies, she said.

His trademark may have been churches, though, his family said. He designed and oversaw the construction of nearly 100 Catholic churches in the Diocese of Winona.

“I think he probably did a couple and word got around,” Sydney said. “He was a committed Catholic, and a good salesman.”

Smith’s son, Sherman, joined the firm in 1975, and the pair worked side by side before a fall forced Smith to retire in 1990. Sherman couldn’t point to one building that her father liked best, Sydney said.

“I asked him which one Dad was most excited about,” she said. “He said, ‘The next one.’” Winona Daily News

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