Donald “Donnie” Smart

July 12, 1932 - May 20, 2023

Donald Joseph Smart was born on July 12, 1932, and passed away on Saturday, May 20, 2023.  He grew up on a dairy farm in China, Texas.  After graduating high school, Donnie, as he liked to be called, met his sweetheart, Virginia, after admiring her beautiful green dress and offering her a ride home from work one day.  This car ride led to four daughters, a successful business, and a lifetime of memories.  Shortly after marrying Virginia, Donnie joined the Army.  He was stationed in Washington for a short time but ultimately ended back up in China on that same dairy he grew up on.

You can tell a lot by a man’s hands. Donnie’s hands were tough hands. They were strong hands. Those hands held Virginia.  They held his babies. They worked on engines. They showed people his way of doing things. They embraced employees as friends, some even family. They helped people in need. They built a business, a legacy. They didn’t hold a grudge. Those same hands played with his grandkids and cut grass for fun.  They came together to pray and worship the Lord. They showed many people what it meant to work hard and take pride in your work.  They taught that a man’s word was only as good as his actions.

Donnie had a tough side. He was strong-willed. You didn’t tell him he couldn’t do something. He was going to prove you wrong. It might not be exactly safe, but whatever he set his mind to, got accomplished. When he showed you how to do something, it was the right way……his way!  Donnie was a creature of habit. He had a favorite outfit……we all know THE uniform! He had favorite restaurants, with favorite tables, favorite waitresses, who brought out his preferred meals with no words spoken. Although he could mostly be found wearing his trademark Smart’s uniform, he did have a sense of style. He loved wearing his Tom Landry hats. And usually when he was seen in one of those, you knew he meant business!

With his hard side, he also had a soft side. He loved his girls. He worked hard for his family. He loved Virginia too. He always called her his sweetheart. They loved going on road trips and collecting antiques. They loved to go to Branson and see the shows. They loved having a house full of family and celebrating holidays. They loved being surrounded by their kids and grandkids and great-grandkids.

Donnie was a collector. He collected tractors. He collected fire trucks. He collected coins and knives and guns and later on…cats! He also collected lifelong friendships. Customers turned into friends, and employees became family.

He was preceded in death by his sweetheart, Ester Virginia Smart; his daughter, Judy Zavala; his great-granddaughter, Adalyn Thibodeaux; his parents, Ray Allen Smart and Clara Josephine Smart; and his sister, Delores A. Clubb.

He is survived by his daughters, Nancy Gore and husband, Alvis, of China, Texas; Susan Grohn and husband, Steve; and Donna Thibodeaux and husband, John Neves, all of Beaumont; grandsons, Kevin Gilmore and wife, Shannon, with their children, Zach and Nick; David Gilmore and wife, Marla, and their son, Dawson;  Kris Gilmore and his sons, Kason and Knox; son-in-law, Donald Zavala of Troup, Texas; grandsons, Donald Ferguson and wife, Arpita, and their children, Benjamin,  Sammi, and Liam; Clint Ferguson and wife, Anne, and their children, Lucas and Malia; David Gore and wife, Teresa, and children, Kyle and Andrew;   granddaughters, Stefanie Stallings and husband, Curtis, and their children, Micah, Katelyn, and Caleb; Sarah Smith and husband, Lane, and their children, Everett and Lincoln; Rebekah Grohn and fiancé, Zach Peabody; and Andria Frederiksen and husband, Erik, with their children, Ethan and Connor; grandsons, Brandon Thibodeaux and wife, Erin, with their children, Aubrey and Grayson; and Corey Thibodeaux and wife, Jade, with their son, Trace; sister-in-law, Betty Michalski; and nephew, Mark Livingston.

A gathering of Mr. Smart’s family and friends will be from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., Friday, May 26, 2023, at First Baptist Church, Nome. His funeral service will be 2:00 p.m., Saturday, May 27, 2023, at First Baptist Church, 1985 Louisiana Street, Nome. His interment will follow at China Cemetery, China, under the direction of Broussard’s, 1605 North Major Drive, Beaumont.

Memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church, 1985 Louisiana Street, Nome, Texas 77629.


Download Program

Gathering of Family and Friends

First Baptist Church – Nome
  • 1985, Louisiana Street, Nome, Texas, 77629,
  • May 26, 2023
  • 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Funeral Service

First Baptist Church – Nome
  • 1985, Louisiana Street, Nome, Texas, 77629,
  • May 27, 2023
  • 2:00 pm


China Cemetery
  • 463, Benoit Ave, China, TX, 77613,

Comments (14)

    Kay Nolte Abernathy says:

    Sending love, kindness, and prayers to all of you.

    Carolyn Daniels says:

    Thinking of you, Nancy & your sisters. I do miss your mother & now your Dad. I am have known the family for a very long time. I will say a strong Christian family. I sending condolences to the whole family. I will keep you all in my prayers

    Ed Loredo says:

    There was something I forgot in my prior comment:
    It is said you measure the mark of a man if you can say,
    “The world was a better place because of Donnie Smart and because Donnie was in it!!! I can say that !!! The world was a better place because Donnie was in it !!! Adios !!! Old Buddy !!!

    Dsvid A Smith says:

    Donnie and I were classmates in China High school from the 6th grade. Good friend and buddy. I don’t know of any other class of ’49 members. So sad to hear of his passing. The last time I saw Donnie and Virginia was at his 85th (I think) birthday party. Blessings on the rest of the family. David

    Cardell DeLeon says:

    Mr. Smart gave me my first place to rent for my very first business. Hawk Communications . He never once said anything about being late on my rent and I was late every month. He never stopped supporting me and my dreams ..Thank you Mr and Mrs Smart for believing in me God Bless you and your family love Cardell

    Casey Matthews says:

    Donnie Smart was a good man in so many ways, and an example to many who are better for having known him.. I am one of those.

    Mel Wright says:

    Donnie was a great businessman, he said what he would do and did it. He treated his customers as friends and built a great business. He helped us at our business and for that I’m very grateful to have know Donnie and valued our friendship.
    He will be missed by all who knew him. Praying for all is loved ones.

    Judi Benoit says:

    Mr. Smart was a good and kind man. He lived his life well. I am sending prayers out for his family.

    Judi Benoit

    Trevor Farragut says:

    I work at the Post Office in China and Mr. Smart was always very nice. I would insist on carrying the heavier packages to his truck. And he would insist right back that he didn’t need help. Some of those conversations I won, but most of the time he did. He always had a big smile on his face and wisdom, kind words, and jokes to tell me. Although I haven’t been out here very long, I will miss his presence.

    Edward Loredo says:

    The right way, the wrong way, and Donnie’s way !!! It was more than a saying, it was a way of life, a code to live by at Smarts. Honesty, hard work, a code of honor, a bond with an employee or customer, and a sense of pride that lasted a lifetime. Thank you Donnie for all you taught me and your friendship over the years, you will be missed by all !!
    Ed Loredo

    Ronnie Grimes says:

    Donnie was a good friend. Prayers are with all his family. Ronnie Grimes

    Bert Fontenot says:

    Sending Prayers for the family. Donnie was always a person who would help others and seemed to love all the people around him. He will never be forgotten.

    Lanette Valka says:

    I have worked for Smart’s for 27 years and I always saw a smile on Mr. Smart’s face. No one was a stranger to him. He loved his family, blood and non-blood. God is getting a very special Angel., who is going to be with the love of his life, Virginia. He will be greatly missed by us all.

    Alvis Gore says:

    Donnie was man who was never afraid of taking on a challenge, even if it meant hard work to the end. He was also a man who loved his family and many friends. We’ll miss you ole buddy.

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