Chester Douglas Smelser said his last goodbye and I love you on May 4, 2019. He was 88 years young.
He was the youngest son of Mary Hazel Walker Smelser and Elmer Guy Smelser, late of Yucca Valley and Aumsville, Oregon.
Chester “Chet” was born five miles west of Willamina, Oregon, Sept. 17, 1930, into a home of four older sisters and two living brothers. His eldest brother, William Albert Smelser, born April 13, 1917, died as a toddler from complications of the flu March 4, 1920, and his next older brother, Elmer Earnest Smelser, died a U.S. Marine Corps PFC, a hero, in World War II during the Pacific Campaign on Saipan, Marianas, June 28, 1944. Elmer was just 23.
Chet grew up in a household full of doting sisters Eleanor Grace, Theresa Francis, Margret Silina and Dorothy Florence, and two older brothers, Elmer Earnest and Johnnie Le Roy. By June 22, 1932, a happy baby girl named Faye joined the already growing family. This would be the last child born to Guy and Hazel Smelser.
Elmer signed up for the Marine Corps June 2, 1942, and he left instructions for my dad (Chet) and dad’s older brother Johnnie to be good boys and not fight. Well, Uncle Elmer, the boys had plenty of fights, love, teasing their sisters and just plain good shenanigans. Uncle Elmer, you are and were truly missed. Thank you for your service.
Chet and Johnnie always missed their brother Elmer and I think my dad (Chet) joined the U.S. Army to emulate his brother. Chet was in the Army during the Korean War and was never sent overseas or to Korea. He was very disappointed not to be in the active conflict. Chet achieved the rank of sergeant (E-5) as mess facility specialist (cook). He was stationed at Staten Island, New York, and truly enjoyed his time there.
Chet left Army life, came back home to Aumsville, Oregon, and went to college for a while, but the exciting life of wine, women and song got the better of him. He eventually settled down, kind of, with a local Stayton girl by the name of Vera May Johnson. Together they had two gorgeous little girls, if I may so myself, Cheryl Rae and JoAnne Marie. Their marriage was a short one but their two daughters, of whom I’m the eldest, are still alive to tell our stories.
Chet went on to live in different areas of California and Mexico. He owned and co-operated many different small businesses. While experimenting with gambling and co-managing small business and learning to be a tool and die technician, my father met and married another wonderful woman, Esther Louise Fink, who became a mother for the second time to my sister, Dorothy Jean, and my father adopted my fantastic brother, Steven Arthur. He is now a Smelser. Ha!
We the children went on to live our lives in many different states and countries and married and divorced and populated the earth with carbon footprints … kids. These children live in various states and at the moment live in the US of A. Steve married twice and has four terrific rebels and his youngest daughter, Raquel Esther, has now produced two beautiful children and grandchildren for her fascinating father, Steve. His eldest son, Russell Winchester, is an entrepreneur and a budding politician. His life partner is Victoria Bower. Rafeal Antonio is a successful master automotive technician. Rose Meridith is happily living in a cottage in Oregon.
Cheryl Rae has been married a couple of times and is now happily married to Mike Harrigan. I have had the joy of bringing forth two carbon footprints, Teresa Dawn and Douglas Patrick Ryan. Teresa has two beautiful children, Carlie Michelle and Gavin Michael, who are true and independent free thinkers. Douglas “Doug” has a terrific life in Maryland with his wife, Liz, and their three joyful girls. Doug has a 22-year-old son, Nicholas, working in Nevada. Carlie has continued the family line with a baby girl, Serenity Faith.
JoAnne Marie is our sister who lives and breathes in Oregon. She has had the joy of continuing the family linage with five glorious children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Now, last but not unheard from, is our lovely cheerful sister Dorothy … not to be confused with the Wizard of Oz. You see, she lives in Kansas. Dorothy Jean and her sidekick Richard “Rick.” Dorothy has given us three wonderful carbon footprints. Her youngest, Robert, is in joyous reunion with his grandparents in heaven. His siblings, Janenne and Isaac, are living with their spouses and children in Michigan and Alabama. Yes, “Bama.” Janenne and her New York husband, Paul, have their own little carbon footprints, Danielle the independent and Claire the tattoo artist. Isaac, on the other hand, in “Bama,” is a blessed man with his three beautiful female carbon footprints. Yep, three little ladies that make a man want to go fishing daily. He is now married to a new gal, Ashley. Congratulations to the couple. Summer the eldest, Samantha the social butterfly and Abbey the youngest. Isaac was stationed in San Diego while in the Marine Corps and his little girls got to know and love their “Grandpa Chet.” Chet loved talking about his great-grands.
Chet also was loved by his nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews. Vicki Smelser and Jennifer Guerrero her husband, Eddie, also Jennifer’s children, Merissa, Edward and Eric.
He is remembered by his friends and his customers. If you were a customer, you were automatically “His Friend.”
He was preceded in death by his wives and girlfriends and his siblings, all but Johnnie Le Roy, his devoted older brother who quietly passed away July 21, 2019.
Johnnie worked and lived near his brother Chet for over 60 years. Their lives were so different but yet they shared the same fierce commitment to family and each other.
Johnnie worked for Chet’s Appliance and SavOn Appliance for many years and was loved and respected by the clientele and regular folks of all the areas he lived. Johnnie always made friends wherever he drove his truck and if you weren’t his friend, you certainly respected his opinions. He had a way of telling a story that always captivated his audiences. When he bested a person on a subject or a person bested him he would laugh and diffuse the tension. Loved him so much.
Chet owned and operated Chet’s Maytag Home Appliance Center since 1977 in the beautiful town of Yucca Valley. He brought his children into the business and also his grandchildren. Steve seemed to take to the business and stuck with the appliance repair and wholesale sales of said machines. Chet, Steve and Johnnie were mentored and aided by a great guy and salesman Barry Sullivan. With the direction of Barry Sullivan, Salesman of the Year, Chet’s Appliance is the store it is today.
We all miss Barry Sullivan; he passed away too soon from cancer. We miss you, Barry. Chet had many, many loyal personnel and office staff he employed and treated like family. Jeanie Ditburner put up with Chet’s temper. Florencia did the books and Rick P., well he was an asset to all. Rick and Rick, Ben and Cheryl’s mom, Pam, was the lady that took over from our mom, Esther Smelser, and Jeanie Ditburner at the “desk” answering phones and making up fibs where Chet was. Chet with the help of his loyal crew was one of the early business fathers of the town of Yucca Valley. Way back when it was a two-lane main highway, tumbleweeds and coyotes and the stupid concrete divider down the middle of the road in front of the shop on Highway 62 across from the Triangle Liquor Store.
Cheryl Price is now the proprietor of Chet’s Appliance. We wish her many years of prosperity.
Chet supported The Boys and Girls Club and Yucca Valley Little League. He also was a supporter of the Hi-Desert Hospital Auxiliary.
Chet loved to fish. He was known to go to different states and the country of Mexico to fish. He even brought back a crappy little parasite from Mexico that plagued him until the day he died.
His kids and grandkids and the adopted kids and grandkids (Chet called his girlfriend’s children and grandkids his own) will remember their own fishing stories with Chet.
Chet enjoyed traveling to Oregon by car to visit his daughter JoAnne Parsons and his family and friends who were still residing in Oregon. I emphasize traveling by car because he and my uncle Johnnie scared the wholly hell of those of us who have ever ridden in the same car with them.
Chet and Johnnie enjoyed fishing together. Always.
Johnnie loved reminiscing about family members and family history and always included his lovely wife, Pat, in the conversation. She had a wonderful memory and they drove Chet crazy talking about the past and of course Chet always had a version where he was the hero. Pat and Johnnie always got a good laugh from those times.
The two brothers were very different and yet they were the same in their passions, whatever they may have been. I knew that when our dad Chet passed away, Uncle Johnnie would follow him to heaven. After all, they are brothers.
Our family is hosting a remembrance reception for him from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, at Hawk’s Landing in Yucca Valley, to honor Chet, Esther, Johnnie and Pat’s memories and their beautiful lives that touched us all. Come on by and give us a chat sit a spell and tell us your story of life and times with the Smelser’s. You are all welcome.