First Security Statement on the Passing of Former Director Jim Smith

We’d like to thank the Charles City Press for their excellent retrospective on Jim Smith in the December 2nd edition (read it here). As a decades-long member of First Security’s board of directors, Jim had an indelible impact on the bank. He helped guide the institution through many highs and lows, always striving to do the right thing for the bank and its customers. Current directors, management, and staff all consider him a wonderful friend and a lifelong role model.

Please take a moment to join us in recognizing the life and outstanding contributions of Jim Smith. He will be missed by all of us at First Security.

Below is the obituary shared in the Charles City Press:

James Fraser Smith
June 11, 1923 – November 30, 2022

James Fraser Smith of Charles City, Iowa, passed away on Nov. 30 at the 9th Street Chautauqua nursing home. He was 99 years old.

No service has been scheduled at this time.

Jim was born in Grinnell, Iowa, and moved to Charles City at the age of two. His father, James Main Smith, was employed for 33 years by the Oliver Corporation. As a child, Jim took piano and later organ lessons and playing these instruments was a life-long joy.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Jim was a freshman at Oberlin College in Ohio.  He enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned as an Ensign. Bound for Washington, D.C. via Chicago for midshipman school, he remembers his family seeing him off at dawn at the Milwaukee Road train depot in Charles City, an historic building now under renovation.

Serving in the Pacific on a cruiser, a ship assigned to landing craft support, Jim witnessed the battle of Iwo Jima and was thrilled to see the famous raising of the American flag in victory by six surviving Marines.

After returning from wartime service, Jim graduated from Oberlin College in 1947 and returned to Charles City to marry his high school sweetheart, Virginia Zastrow. He and Virginia moved to Iowa City where Jim earned his law degree from the University of Iowa in 1950.

Jim joined his father-in-law’s firm, Zastrow, Noah and Smith and began a legal career of close to 60 years. Initially, his partners were Ralph Zastrow and Keith Noah, his brother-in-law, followed by his nephew, Ronald Noah, and son, Ralph Smith. Jim reluctantly retired from law practice in his 80s. Serving as the town’s city attorney in the 1970s and contributing his legal expertise to the overwhelming task of reconstructing the city after the devastating 1968 tornado were highlights of his professional life. He served for many years on the First Security Bank Board of Directors.

Traveling, reading history books, enjoying music, Rotary Club and church activities, walking the golf course and exercising at the Y and time spent with his family occupied Jim’s life outside work. He would pack up the camper-van, attach it to the car and off the family would go crossing the United States in the 1950s and 1960s on the new interstate highway system. For several years he was church organist in partnership with his wife who conducted the Central Methodist Church choir. He often played the organ for weddings and funerals and he frequently accompanied Virginia when she performed with her violin. Family and friends joined the couple during the holidays for Messiah sing-a-longs around Jim’s beloved grand piano. His grandson, Karl, has memories of playing his trumpet with Grandpa accompanying him on the piano at their home on Maple Avenue. Karl’s Grandma Smith would often interrupt with a shout from the kitchen, “Slow down, Jim!”

Jim always considered himself a “lucky man.”  He survived a world war and had the opportunity to pursue a career he loved.  Happily married for 69 years, Jim lost Virginia in 2016 but he still found joy and purpose in living. He was well taken care of at Riverside Senior Living and faithfully took the public transit bus to join the weekday morning coffee group at Aromas up until the day before he died.
Jim is survived by his daughter, Pamela Finkelman (Roy), Wilmington, Delaware ; son Ralph Smith (Ruth), Charles City; four grandchildren, Rachel Otting (Craig) Dubuque, Iowa; Karl Smith, Charles City; Andrew Finkelman (Lauren Varga), Potomac, Maryland; Jeffrey Finkelman (Maggie Murphy), Waltham, Massachusetts, and five great-grandchildren. Jim’s nieces and nephews are Karen Smith (Martha West) and Craig Smith (Merry); Ronald Noah (Toni), Steven Noah (Jane), Eric Noah (Cindy) and Nancy Tyler (Dirk). He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Zastrow Smith in 2016 and his brother Andrew Clark Smith in 2007.

The family would like to thank the past and current staff at Riverside Senior Living and 9th Street Chautauqua as well as the staff and volunteers of MercyOne North Iowa Hospice for the excellent care Jim received at the end of his life.

In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the Rotary Club of Charles City payable to the Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 761, Charles City, Iowa 50616, or to support the Milwaukee Road Depot renovation (payable to American Passenger Train History Museum) mail to: APTHM, Save the Depot Fund, P.O. Box 683, Charles City, Iowa 50616.

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