Bill Smith Jr. won eight NCAA titles under coach Mike Peppe and was captain of the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team
Feb. 22, 2013
William Melvin Smith, Jr. of Kaneohe, Hawaii passed away on February 8, 2013, surrounded by his family at 88 years old. He was born in Honolulu on May 16, 1924, the son of William Smith and Rena Kealoha.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Moana Riley Smith, daughters Billi Smith (Scott Topp), Maureen Smith, sons Riley (Nancy) Smith and Kimo (Kapu) Smith, sister Leila Davenport, half-sisters
Jacqueline Smith (deceased), Leona Peroff, Ulu (Gabriel) Malani, Stephanie (Charles) Iona, Helene Smith (deceased) , ten grandchildren: Hala’i Topp, Kenui Topp, Craig Lapilio, Anu (Chino) Alcantar, Masa Lapilio, Aloha Lapilio, Jesse Alvord, Kaliko Smith, Kainui Michael Smith and Piilani Smith, six great grandchildren, Taimane Laupola, Makanani Smith, Tehani Alcantar, Takai Alcantar, Makoa Lapilio and Mattea Topp.
When Bill was seven years old (1931), he contracted spinal meningitis. His mother, being a devout Mormon, asked the Church Elders to administer their prayers and healing practices (ordinances). He slowly regained use of his legs after repeated sessions with his dad taking him to the Waikiki Natatorium and Sans Souci beach for therapy. His dad would massage and exercise his legs, bury him in
the sand and rub his legs with kukui nut oil, which eventually restored his limbs and strengthened them This healing process took about a year.
When Bill was thirteen years old (1937), he attended St. Louis High School and later graduated from Baldwin Memorial High School. He first swam for Hui Makani Swim club coached by Harvey Chilton and
did well. While Bill was traveling to California (by himself) for a swim meet, his father asked Coach Sakamoto to keep an eye on his 16 year old son. Coach took a liking to Bill and helped him with his technique. Coach then asked Bill to join his club and move to Maui to train. He ended up moving in with Coach’s family and swam for his Three Year Swimming Club in the irrigation ditches of Puunene. He later went on to swim for Mike Peppe at Ohio State University, where he won fifteen National AAU Championships, eight NCAA Championships, held eighteen American Records, seven World Records and in 1948 was Captain of the United States Olympic Swimming team and won two gold medals at the London Olympic Games. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame, the Ohio State University Athletic Hall of Fame and named the Ohio State University Swimmer of the Century.
He spent two years in the United States Navy, between 1943 and 1945, during World War II. After the service, he returned to Ohio State University and graduated in 1950. Upon his return to Honolulu, he worked for the City and County of Honolulu, as Water Safety Director, for over thirty years. During his tenure, the lifeguard service grew from six lifeguards on the beaches in Waikiki, to over 300 guards protecting the public at the many beaches throughout the entire island of Oahu. He was particularly proud of hiring the uniquely skilled watermen at the dangerous beaches at Makaha, Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay.
These brave men were willing to risk their lives to save others and make beaches safer. During his career, he embarked on his lifelong passion of teaching the youth of Hawaii to set high goals and learn that anything is possible; traits he learned under Coach Sakamoto and the Three Year Swimming Club. He coached swimmers at Kaneohe Bay Swim Club and for twenty five years at Kamehameha Swim Club. His swimmers learned discipline, sacrifice and that with hard work, comes many rewards. He was especially proud that these skills transferred to their adult lives, as they started their families and entered the work force.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at St. Ann’s Church (Kaneohe), with visitation at 10:00 AM, services at 11:00 AM and reception to follow. Inurnment of his ashes will be at a later date.
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