Billy Van Smith passed away peacefully at his home near Harper, Texas, on Aug. 2, 2020. He was born on Sept. 24, 1932, to Opal Fae and Beal Cato Smith in Tell, Texas.
Billy left the cotton fields of the Panhandle to join the U.S. Army. He served in the Army from 1953 to 1955, including time in Korea in the immediate aftermath of the Korean War.
He left the Army to pursue his livelihood in the oil patch. Billy’s career took him throughout the country and around the world, with onshore and offshore stints in Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico, Iran, Angola, Nigeria, France and Venezuela. He began as a roustabout and roughneck and worked his way up the ladder to superintendent, then manager, then vice president. He spent the bulk of his career with leading international drilling companies Sedco Forex and ENSCO International, where he oversaw all aspects of drilling operations in many of his postings around the world. Billy was admired and respected by his colleagues for his work ethic, determination, dedication to quality, loyalty and friendship.
Billy met his wife, Robbie Sue Nungester, in New Orleans and they were married on Oct. 19, 1964, in Teheran, Iran, where they lived and worked for 13 years before returning to Texas.
He retired from ENSCO in 1999 to spend time with Sue on his ranch outside Harper. Billy’s retirement did not fully take hold, however, and he spent several more years working on and off as a contract company man for oil and gas companies in South Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, shuttling back and forth between the job site and his ranch in the Hill Country. He retired for good in 2011 and took pleasure in wildlife management and battling cactus to beautify the land.
Billy was preceded in death by his sister, Linda Trent, and his brother, Harold Smith.
He is survived by Sue, his beloved wife of 56 years; his son, Dr. Craig Van Smith and his wife Deborah of Waxahachie, Texas; his son, William Creighton Smith and his wife Cristina of Houston, Texas; his brothers, Jerry Dean Smith of Clarksville, Texas, and Stephen Smith and his wife Janie of Mesa, Arizona; his sister-in-law “Favorite Aunt” Janet Nungester Bentley of Huntsville, Alabama; his loving grandchildren, whom he adored, Katherine Macpherson Smith, Julia Daulton Smith, William Creighton Smith Jr., and Elizabeth Chattan Smith; loyal cats Chewie, Jack, Jed and Yoda; and a handful of wild turkeys who would occasionally accompany him on his chores around the ranch.
The family wishes to extend their sincere thanks to Dr. Michael Grocki; Sheri Johnston, Juanita Hernandez and Liz Montoya of Alamo Hospice; Karen Kammer and Nancy Height of Home Instead Senior Care; Trey, Chrissy and Harper Toothman; and Carol Priour for their compassionate care, assistance and friendship during Billy’s final months.
Condolences may be sent at www.grimesfuneralchapels.com by selecting the “Send Condolences” link.
Final arrangements are entrusted to Grimes Funeral Chapels of Kerrville.