PUNXSUTAWNEY — Former state Rep. L. Eugene “Snuffy” Smith, 97, died Sunday at a personal care home in DeLancey, Jefferson County.
“We have lost one of our most ardent, passionate and effective voices,” state House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, said in a statement following Smith’s passing. “His desire, dedication and determination to serve will live with me forever. May Snuffy’s memory be for a blessing.”
After serving as Punxsutawney Area School Board president and mayor of Punxsutawney, L. Eugene Smith was sent to the state House from the 66th Legislative District in a special election on Feb. 19, 1963. He served through end of 1986 from a district that then included parts of Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties.
“It’s not really a glamorous, fun-filled occupation, but it is very rewarding,” the elder Smith said in a statement to the Gazette on Jan. 15, 1986, announcing his retirement. “I am now and will be forever grateful to the people of the 66th Legislative District who have given me the opportunity to serve.”
According to an obituary provided by the Smith family to the Deeley Funeral Home in Punxsutawney, L. Eugene Smith got the nickname “Snuffy” from a comic strip character that appeared in the paper on Sundays.
“At a Monday Boy Scout meeting, the boys in the troop decided they needed a ‘Snuffy Smith’ and the name stuck with him his entire life,” the obituary said.
Smith’s wife, the former Jean Huey, passed away on Nov. 12, 2018, six days before what would have been their 74th wedding anniversary.
Smith served during World War II in the Army Air Corps, as a member of the 306th Bomb Group that flew B-17s, also known as the “Flying Fortress,” out of England on raids into Germany and other Nazi-held territories in Belgium and France.
After his return from the service, Snuffy and Jean Smith had two daughters as well as their son Sam, and in turn were the grandparents of five and great-grandparents of three.
With his brother Richard, Snuffy Smith followed in the path of their father, eventually owning and operating a tire business in Punxsutawney. Snuffy and Jean Smith also had a small farm and raised cattle there until Snuffy’s retirement.
Turzai succeeded Smith’s son, retired state Rep. Sam Smith, as speaker in 2015.
“Sam … followed in the footsteps of his dad by being elected to succeed him,” Turzai noted. Sam Smith served in the House for 14 terms including seven in leadership positions and two as speaker.
The younger Smith also serves as an IUP trustee.
“The entire IUP community, in Indiana and Punxsutawney, sends its deepest condolences to the family of ‘Snuffy’ Smith,” IUP President Dr. Michael A. Driscoll said late Tuesday. “Mr. Smith was a great leader for our region and for Pennsylvania and a good man, dedicated to community service. His impact continues in the good work of his son, Sam, who serves as the chair of IUP’s Council of Trustees.”