James Randel Smith, one of four children of Harold G. and Ruth (Randel) Smith, was born April 13, 1935, in Auburn, Nebraska. He attended Cloverdale rural school near the family’s home south of Auburn through the 8th grade and graduated from Auburn High School in 1953. He went on to study at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In 1955 Randel joined the U.S. Army. He received his honorable discharge in 1957 and returned to Nebraska. Randel then attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics.
On May 27, 1961, Randel married his equal and love of his life, Jane Crooker, at the Auburn Christian Church. They made homes in southwest Iowa, rural Auburn, and Brownville. They would be blessed with seven children and be married for 61 years.
Their home, the Tipton House, in Brownville was certainly a labor of love for the couple. They began restoring what was just a shell of a house before they were even engaged. In fact, one day Randel gave Jane his fraternity pin while they were working at the house so she would not have to return to her sorority in Lincoln for a house meeting and could continue working on the house. In 2001, they made the house their full-time home and lived there for the duration of their time together.
Randel balanced many career interests in his life, the first serving as a bank examiner for both federal and state governments. He then entered the banking business himself before becoming a river boat captain on the Missouri River. Randel continued the family farming business of seed corn production for NC+ Hybrids after returning to the family farm. Additionally, he founded and operated the River Inn Resort in Brownville.
Randel was dedicated to Brownville and instrumental in the cultural activities of the community. He was one of the founders of the Brownville Village Theatre and was active in the Brownville Historical Society, Merchants of Brownville, and the Brownville Fine Arts Association. He also was a member of the Brownville United Methodist Church.
In true Randel fashion, he lived life on the go until he and his doctors suspected cancer. Within the week, he passed away at Bryan Medical Center West in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his family around him, on Saturday, April 30, 2022, just 17 days after his 87th birthday. He was preceded in death by his parents Harold and Ruth, sister and brother-in-law Marilyn and Richard Gruber, and daughter Carrie Smith.
Randel will be missed with love by his wife Jane of Brownville; children and spouses Tony and Marilyn Smith of Omaha; Paul Smith of Omaha; James R., Jr. and Lisa Smith of Brownville; Kenny and Angelia Smith of Liberty, MO; Dr. Christina (PhD) and Derrick Chatman of Milledgeville, GA; Leya Smith of Brownville; grandchildren and spouses Thomas and Clarisa Smith, Robert Kaelin, Sandra and JoAnne Kaelin, Andrew Smith, Kyle Thompson, Evan Smith, Elizabeth Tut, Aiden Smith, and DJ Chatman; numerous great-grandchildren; brothers and spouses Dr. Hal and Barbara Smith of Philadelphia, PA; Gregg and Kathlene Smith of Hastings; nieces, nephews, other relatives, and many friends.
A funeral service will be Thursday, May 5, 2:00 p.m. at Hemmingsen Funeral Home in Auburn. Burial will be at the Walnut Grove Cemetery at Brownville. Visitation will be at the funeral home Wednesday, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with family members greeting friends 6:00 to 8:00.
View Randel's funeral via Livestream at:
Memorials are suggested to Brownville Village Theater, Brownville Fine Arts Association, Brownville Historical Society, Brownville Concert Series, or Nemaha County Hospital Physical Therapy Department.