Obituaries » Sherwood Finley Smith, Jr
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October 20, 1926 - February 8, 2021
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The Reverend Sherwood Finley Smith, Jr. of Lynchburg, Virginia, a beloved Presbyterian minister, died on February 8, 2021, at the age of 94 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was the husband of Kathleen Murchison Smith and a resident of Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg.
He was born in Williamson, West Virginia on October 20, 1926, the son of the late Sherwood Finley Smith, Sr. and the late Emily Maynard Smith. He was preceded in death by two half-sisters, Virginia Hurt Tolbert and Nan Louise Albert.
Sherwood left Williamson after his junior year in high school to attend Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. After a year he transferred to Washington and Lee University where he graduated in 1948. His faith led him to attend Union Theological Seminary (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) in Richmond, Virginia, and he graduated in 1952 with a Master of Divinity degree. There, he was recognized by all for his excellence in Biblical Greek studies. Following his ordination as a Presbyterian minister, he served his first pastorate at Parkview Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia. He married Kathleen Murchison, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, and continued to serve pastorates at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church in Huntington, West Virginia, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, Overbrook Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, and First Presbyterian Church in Dunedin, Florida. All of these churches were blessed with Sherwood’s passionate preaching and pastoral spirit. He retired in 1987 to Lynchburg to be near the close-knit community and the Blue Ridge Mountains that he so loved. He was then called out of retirement to serve many Interim Supply pastorates throughout southwest Virginia. Sherwood was known for his skill at resolving conflict with his healing presence and humble nature. In the 1990’s, he served as the first Chaplain at Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg, serving residents in Assisted Living and Healthcare. His combined ministries spanned more than 60 years.
A lifelong scholar, Sherwood had a love affair with words and was a bibliophile of the first order. His motto was a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “I cannot live without books.” and his library numbered in the thousands. A renowned preacher and master of the spoken word, he was revered for his moving sermons, always delivered without notes, that left his listeners spellbound. Inspired by the writings of theologian Walter Brueggemann, he often preached fearlessly on controversial topics, having a profound effect on his many congregations. Sherwood’s prayers were legend and often reproduced and shared with many individuals outside the church. His ministry and impact on others calls to mind the quote by Flavia Weedn “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay awhile and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
Sherwood’s last 10 joyful years were spent with his wife Kathleen at Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg amongst countless close and dear friends. He enjoyed monthly gatherings with other retired ministers and indulging in his treasured Russell Stover candy. Gifted with a marvelous, witty sense of humor, he loved being surrounded by and visiting with people. He had a great affinity for the music of a bygone era and for many years was one of the leaders of the weekly Westminster Canterbury Sing-A-Long. These sing-a-longs were the absolute highlight of his week, and he led them with humor and gusto. Sherwood also relished weekly games of pool with friends in the WC Billiard Room always arriving with his personal pool cue in its own case. Despite his Alzheimer’s condition, he continued to work and complete daily crossword puzzles until almost the very end. His final years at Westminster Canterbury were filled with such joy and peace encircled by loving friends and caring staff.
In addition to Kathleen, his wife of 61 years, he is survived by three daughters: Lisa Smith Bridges and her husband Dr. William Zachery Bridges, Jr. of Asheville, North Carolina, Laura Blair Smith of Seattle, Washington and Jennifer Smith Bender of Jacksonville, Florida; five grandchildren (Amanda, Emily, Lillie, Caroline and Lucie); and three great-grandchildren (Bailey, Adalynn and Miles Finley). He is also survived by a nephew whom he considered a son, Edward L. Hurt and his wife Sandra of Virginia Beach, Virginia and their three children, Debbie, Margaret and Scott. He will also be fondly remembered by his extended family of in-laws, out-laws, nieces and nephews. Sherwood was a kind and loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and officiated at numerous family weddings and baptisms. He was extraordinarily proud of his entire family and considered them to be his life’s finest accomplishment.
The family suggests that those wishing to make a memorial gift consider Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1022 Floyd Street, Lynchburg, Virginia 24501. A memorial service celebrating his life will be planned for a later date.
Tharp Funeral Home is assisting the family.