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Preston ‘Bud’ Smith, 78, career pilot who flew a variety of planes for U.S. Customs

Preston ‘Bud’ Smith

WILMINGTON — Preston “Bud” Smith, 78, passed away Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, at Lower Cape Fear Hospice Center.

Bud was born June 19, 1941, in Wilmington, the second child of Preston Smith Sr. and Dorothy Smith. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by two brothers, Michael and Vincent.

Having a father who was a warden for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons had some perks for dad during his younger years, one of which was living on the prison grounds at Terminal Island, overlooking the Los Angeles harbor. With the Pacific Ocean as their backyard, he and his brothers had many adventures fishing and scuba diving for lobster and abalone.

Following high school, dad attended college for a couple years and then decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy and pursue what would become his lifelong passion of flying. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. After flying seaplanes, patrolling the coast of Vietnam, he was assigned to fly the admiral, commander of Middle East Forces.

It was in Saudi Arabia that he met his wife of 51 years, Joyce Schottler, who was teaching for the Aramco School. He liked to tell his story of the naval aviator who flew into Dhahran on a silver-winged bird and saved the fair maiden from spinsterhood. Six months after their first date, they got married in Bahrain on Nov. 28, 1968.

Released from active duty in 1969, he continued to fly with the U.S. Naval Reserve while pursuing what would ultimately become a 32-year career with United Airlines. Dad flew a variety of planes for U.S. Customs on the California-Mexico border, as their fleet included many confiscated aircraft. He especially enjoyed chasing smugglers at night in the desert and catching bad guys. Dad got a big kick out of how often he was told that he looked like Clint Eastwood.

He often expressed gratitude for a career doing what he loved, that also allowed for many adventures for his family. He joked that he earned the money and mom’s job was to spend it. Dad wanted her to be able to stay home with the family, especially since his job kept him traveling. He loved mom dearly and was grateful that she put up with him. Dad was very proud of his children and his grandchildren and enjoyed boasting about what everyone was up to, especially in his infamous Christmas letter.

Dad valued the love and friendships he had throughout 45 years of Marriage Encounter, 27 years of fellowship and support in the rooms of A.A., and in recent years, support and wisdom of friends in the memory care group. He was a devout Catholic. His faith was very important to him throughout his life and brought him a great deal of comfort and peace.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce; brother, James (Lori) Smith; sons, Derek Smith and Cameron (Kristen) Smith; daughters, Elizabeth Lian, Carolyn Cramer (Casey) and Colleen Smith, and son-in-law, Joseph Lian; grandchildren, Amelia, Ila, Adelaide, Simon, Josefina Smith, Preston, Rowan, Chloe, Dillon Lian and Cecilia Cramer; and numerous in-laws, nieces and nephews.

Our family would like to express deep gratitude to the kind folks at Elderhaus, to the many caring nurses and staff at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, with extra special thanks to Dr. Rickard, and to the many wonderful nurses, aides, doctors, staff and volunteers at the hospice care center. We are so appreciative for the help and kindness of friends and staff at St. Mark Catholic Church, as well as Andrews Mortuary, for their assistance.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 6, with Rosary services at 7:30 p.m., at Andrews Mortuary, 1617 Market St., Wilmington. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 7, with Father Greg Spencer officiating, at St. Mark Catholic Church, 1011 Eastwood Road, Wilmington.

Donations may be made to St. Mark Catholic Church, 1011 Eastwood Road, Wilmington, NC 28403; or Lower Cape Fear Hospice Center, 1406 Physicians Drive, Wilmington, NC 28401.

Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.

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