Joseph E. Smith

Joseph Ellsworth Smith, a longtime auto mechanic and a Baltimore County school bus driver for 35 years, died Wednesday at HeartFields Assisted Living at Bowie.

He had suffered from dementia and kidney failure. He was 87.


Mr. Smith had worked at several Towson-area businesses repairing cars. For decades he drove students to school in the morning, went to work as an auto mechanic and was back on the school bus in the afternoon driving children home from school, said family members.

"He drove to Ridgely Junior High and Cockeysville Elementary. It was always those two schools as far as I can remember," recalled his daughter, Tracey Franklin of Bowie.

He was born in 1925 in Cockeysville to James Robert Smith and Elsie Johnson Smith, the last surviving of the couple's six children. His parents had a farm where his father sheared sheep.

Mr. Smith attended Gough United Methodist Church School in Cockeysville, then followed in his father's footsteps, working on farms in the area. Later, he worked on vehicles in the family's garage.

He served in the Army from 1944 to 1946. He served with the 836th Port Company and the 4003rd Quartermaster Truck Company, and was stationed in Munich, Germany, for about six months. He was in the Transportation Corps before becoming a longshoreman and auto mechanic. He was a technician, fifth grade, equivalent to a corporal, when he was honorably discharged.

After his military service, he worked as an automobile mechanic for several businesses in Towson — George F. Anderson, Star Motors in Towson, Keckner Motors and Gray's Auto Service —and drove the school bus until the mid-1980s.

After fully retiring around 1990, he still operated a small auto repair shop at home, cutting back on the work as he grew older, family members said. He maintained the family's vehicles for decades, then added working on his children's cars until about five years ago.

"He enjoyed it. It was a passion," his daughter said.

He married Betty Ann Thomas of Hereford in 1957. The couple settled on Cuba Road in Cockeysville, and raised a daughter and son there. Mrs. Thomas worked as a housekeeper but stayed home while the couple's daughter and son were young, returning to work after they reached middle school. The couple was married 54 years, until her death in September 2011. After that, Mr. Smith stayed in Bowie with his children briefly before moving into assisted living in December.

As a new resident at HeartFields, he was voted Valentine's Day king in February 2012. "He was such a gentleman," said his son, Tim Smith of Bowie, describing his father as shy but friendly.

A lifelong member of Gough United Methodist Church, he served as its treasurer for many years.

On Christmas mornings, he routinely took his daughter and sometimes his son with him to wish neighbors a merry Christmas, his daughter recalled. He volunteered with his son's Boy Scout troop for many years. "He was the designated bus driver taking us on trips," Tim Smith said.

He spent many Sunday afternoons taking his children duckpin bowling, teaching them and encouraging them to compete in local tournaments.

He enjoyed gardening and tending to his yard. He also enjoyed trips to horse racing tracks with friends. "He did enjoy numerous winnings. It was relaxation, that was his pleasure — to get away with some friends," Tim Smith said.


He was a fan of Willys Jeeps — the vehicles he knew from his military service — and enjoyed working on them, his son said. At the time of his death, he owned a 1948 and a 1950 Willys as well as two later Jeeps.

A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday — which would have been his 56th wedding anniversary — at Lemmon Funeral Home of Dulaney Valley, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium. Visiting hours will begin at 11 a.m.

In addition to his children, he is survived by two grandsons, Kyle and Jordan Smith of Bowie.