Smith, Alfred “Al” John
Published July 7, 2012 in The Gazette
Survivors include his wife, Ginny; children, Kim Smith, Chris (Kimberly) Smith, Jan (Ron) Pfeiffer, Julie (Juan) Alvarez and Steve (Kristen) Smith, all of Cedar Rapids, and Brad (Kelly) Smith of La Junta, Colo.; and nine grandchildren, Olivia Alvarez, April Smith, Michaela Smith, Hannah Smith, Celine Alvarez, Peyton Smith, Lauren Pfeiffer, Grayson Smith and Caroline Smith.
Al was preceded in death by his parents, and three children, Rick, Sheri and Michael.
Al was born May 20, 1932, in Chicago, Ill., to Alfred John Sr. and Mary Carmella Smith. He married Virginia Dunn in Cedar Rapids on July 4, 1953. Right out of high school, he signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians professional baseball club. After he retired from professional baseball, he moved to Cedar Rapids in 1957 and took a job as sports director with the Cedar Rapids Recreation Commission. Al was responsible for all youth and adult sports activities, including baseball, football, basketball, ice skating and many others.
Al’s main interests included working with children and families and sports of every kind, especially baseball and coaching youth sports. Al, in partnership with several local organizations (The Perfect Game), most recently established “The League of Dreams,” a program for boys and girls, providing them with the sports equipment necessary to play baseball.
Not only did he start many programs in Cedar Rapids, he was recognized for his outstanding achievements and volunteerism. Some of the youth programs included football skills, basketball skills, basketball goal shooting (Pepsi Hot Shot), and the Grand Slammer’s program, which was for special needs children.
His awards included the President’s Volunteer Service Award (USA Freedom Corps) which included a visit from President George W. Bush. He was inducted into the Cedar Rapids Kernels Hall of Fame in 2005, and he was awarded the Tait Cummins Citizen of the Year Award in 1995 in appreciation for his many years of volunteer contributions to the people of Cedar Rapids. Al was also chosen as one of the “9 Who Care” award recipients by KCRG in 2008.
Al served as a director on the Board of Education for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, and after leaving, he became its district school ambassador, during which time he established numerous school/business community partnerships. He was also on the board of directors for the Old Creamery Theatre and the Cedar Rapids Kernels where he started a partnership with Metro Care and Taylor Elementary School.
When Al combined his love and knowledge with sports and children, you had a winning combination! There are thousands of Cedar Rapids youth who have benefited from Al’s baseball clinics and other sports-related activities. In past summers, you could watch Al at Kernel’s Stadium as he taught the proper fundamentals of baseball to children ages five through 12. These kids had a real pro as their coach. How many kids can say that? You could always see the pride in Al’s eyes as he led a group of children around the beautiful Cedar Rapids Veteran’s Memorial Stadium on one of the numerous tours he conducted on a regular basis. It was because of Al and many other committed sports fans that Cedar Rapids has this modern state-of-the-art baseball stadium, and Al made sure that everyone knew about this wonderful local landmark. It is with a certain tenacity and determination that Al created countless partnerships between businesses and schools in the area. What a great gift this has been for the community. If you owned a business that did not have a school partnership and you saw Al Smith walking in the door, you were about to have one. Taylor Elementary School is a perfect example. Because Al was on the board of directors for both the Cedar Rapids Kernels and the Old Creamery Theatre, he created partnerships for Taylor with both organizations. Taylor students and their families were able to attend certain Kernels games and Old Creamery productions for free and enjoyed visits at school from Kernels players.
Al will be remembered as a man who dearly loved his family and always put them first. He will remain in the hearts and memories of those who knew him. He will be greatly missed.
The family would like to thank Hospice of Mercy and Dr. Deborah Wilbur and the staff at Oncology Associates for their compassionate and loving care. They would also like to thank everyone for their prayers for Al and the family.
Instead of flowers, a memorial fund has been established.