March 18, 1926 – April 15, 2018
John Smith died on Sunday, April 15, 2018.
He passed peacefully at home, surrounded by family and no longer suffering from congestive heart failure, his family wrote.
One of his favorite sayings was “If you don’t die young, you’ll get old one day,” and he proved it in a very graceful way.
John Smith (born Nagy, Sandor) was born in Kiskunderozsma, Hungary on March 18, 1926 to Dudas, Erzsabet, and Nagy, Jozsef, and was the ninth of 10 children.
A service was scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at the Independent Baptist Church in Homer, Alaska at 4 p.m.
Born during the communist regime in Hungary, John worked hard to help his family survive, which meant helping in the fields, weaving baskets and learning the trade of a barber.
Through political unrest and upheaval he found himself in a displaced persons camp in Austria in 1950.
Finally able to get passage to another country, he found himself in America in 1951.
Upon arriving in New York City, he determined to become a good American and worked hard to show himself worthy.
Wanting a “good American” name, he looked in the New York phone book and chose John Smith. He taught himself English by watching movies at the theaters, and learning whatever trade he could. He was hired as a kitchen helper in a large hotel restaurant, but caught on quickly and was soon one of the head chefs.
After his naturalization process, John moved to Miami Beach, Florida, continuing his career in cooking, until one hot, humid day, in 1958 he announced he was moving to Alaska.
Two weeks later, he packed up his 1956 convertible and drove to Alaska. He got a job on the Alaska Railroad cooking in the club car. This was also where he met his wife, Norma ‘Jo’ Smith, who was the waitress on the train. They married in 1960 at which time they quit the railroad and opened the 5th Ave Café. Three years later they sold the business and began operating a rooming house for the BIA, for Native girls going to school.
In 1965 they owned and operated the San Su San Smorgasbord, where kids could eat for a penny a pound. They sold in 1969 and they spent time working in various communities in the bush and on the North Slope.
From 1970-72 they operated one of the first halfway houses for the Alaska Department of Corrections. They moved to Seward and owned and operated the Breeze Inn Restaurant and Motel until selling in 1977, but returned to manage the business for the next owners.
In 1983, John celebrated one of his greatest moments, when he was able to be reunited with his Hungarian family (including his 93 year old mother) for the first time in 35 years, after thinking they were all dead. What a time of celebration that he was able to enjoy, including two trips back to the “old country.”
In 1985, they spent time working as camp cooks in Barrow, and enjoyed walking the beach and looking for old mammal bones and fossils.
In 1990 John and his family moved to Bethel where he managed the kitchen of the Kuskokwim Inn.
In 1992, they moved to Homer, where they owned and operated the Smith Family Restaurant, and the Windjammer Suites Motel and continued to reside on the premises until his passing.
John was a man of few words, but great wisdom. He lived his life constantly displaying his love for his family. He loved serving those around him and he lived out his faith in his savior, Lord Jesus Christ.
John touched every person he met with his strength of character, his hard work ethic and his love for those around him.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and community.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his nine siblings, and his daughter, Aloma Suella Gunderson
He is survived by his wife, Norma Jo; daughter Jonnie and her husband Terry; his son Russ and wife Karen; nine grandchildren; many great-grandchildren; and several great-great-grandchildren and many family and friends who will miss him very much.