WILMINGTON — Billy Wayne Smith, age 85, passed away at his home on February 6, 2023, after an extended illness. Born November 9, 1937, in Dudley, NC, Billy was the sixth son of the late Stacy Kimbrough and Dora Betta Smith. He spent his youth pulling tobacco and feeding the cows and hogs on his family’s farm in southeastern NC. Years of hunting, fishing, and exploring the countryside gave Billy a deep, lifelong appreciation for nature and wildlife.
As a teenager, Billy enjoyed playing baseball and basketball with his classmates at Brogden High School. After graduating in 1956, he briefly attended N.C. State University before enlisting in the United States Air Force, where he tested missiles at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. After seven years in the service, Billy joined IBM as a product engineer in Research Triangle Park, retiring after a 32-year career.
After raising two wonderful children in Cary, NC, Billy moved to the rural community of Green Level. In 1980, he married the love of his life, Virginia Thompson Smith, and adopted his third child. As a naturally adept mechanical engineer, Billy was a self-taught builder. He designed and built a workshop and barn before embarking on a five-year labor of love, the construction of a passive solar house. Billy spent many happy years in Green Level, tilling the soil and puttering around in his shop with a pencil tucked behind his ear.
In 1998, Billy and Virginia moved to the coast, settling in South River in Carteret County. They joined Merrimon Methodist Church and developed fast friendships with many in the congregation. From glorious sunrises to the evening progression of dolphins headed upriver, Billy and Virginia relished living so close to nature. Billy spent many happy hours crabbing and fishing from his dock, often with his granddaughters, who were the apple of his eye.
After weathering several hurricanes, Billy and Virginia moved inland to Wilmington, NC, in 2019. Billy spent his last years feeding the birds, watching Wolfpack games, and enjoying the company of family and friends.
Billy was preceded in death by his parents and siblings Stacy Hugh Smith, Vernon Odell Smith, Jesse Gray Smith, Harold Edward Smith, Joe Guy Smith, and Betty Louise Fabiano. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Virginia Thompson Smith; his children Kathryne Anne Smith, Summer Wayne Smith, and Jessica Moyd Smith; his three grandchildren, Leah Mei-Ying Smith, Lucy Carys Evans, and Eliza Seren Evans; his sisters Frances Ruth Taylor and Helen Sue Wilson; and many beloved nephews, nieces, family members, and friends.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Lower Cape Fear Lifecare or the N.C. Wildlife Endowment Fund at ncwildlife.org/donate. A memorial service will be held on March 18, 2023 at Merrimon Methodist Church, Beaufort, NC at 11:00 A.M., Pastor Wade Bennett presiding, to be followed by luncheon and distribution of remains in South River.
Aquamation Services Provided by Tranquility Cremation by Aquamation.