Life Story Service
Thursday, September 22, 2022
11:00 AM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Paw Paw Location
60900 Michigan 40
Paw Paw, MI 49079
A reception will follow at the Paw Paw Lions Club.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Edward Smietana, Jr. would agree that he had a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near. He worked hard and applied himself fully to all that he did whether it was in work or in fun. It was easy to see that Ed was married to the love of his life, and together they shared so much of the best experiences that life has to offer. He was known for being a keen listener, but it was his stories that truly made him legendary. Ed had a knack for reading people and knew how to captivate his audience with his stories. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will surely carry on in his footsteps.
During the first half of the 1940s the eyes of our nation were focused overseas as World War II raged on. Countless young men and women had answered the call to serve, while those who remained stateside became all too familiar with rationing on common goods such as paper, coffee, canned goods, and rubber. It was just after our nation, along with our allies, were victorious in preserving the freedoms we still hold dear that Edward Sr. and Eva “Stella” (Soberiaj) Smietana were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Edward on December 14, 1945. Born in Edinburgh, Indiana, he was a typical young boy of his generation. He joined the Cub Scouts, then Boy Scouts earning the highest award of Eagle Scout. In addition to holding down his studies in high school he had a job selling ladies shoes. The shoe store owner talked him into attending John Carroll University, and Ed later graduated with his bachelor’s degree.
With his education behind him, Ed was eager for all that life had in store. He began his years in the workforce by working in a steel mill in Butler, Pennsylvania while putting himself through college and later at Uarco Forms Company in Illinois. Ready for a change in direction, Ed found the job that would become his passion after accepting a position with the Boy Scouts of America, taking a pay cut in the process. This proved to be well worth it since he loved every minute of this new career and never looked back. Ed continued as a professional with the Boy Scouts of America for 36 years including Scout Executive of the LaSalle Council in South Bend, Indiana. He was promoted to Area Director covering the states of Indiana and Michigan. It was also during college that he married his first wife, Bernadette, and together they were blessed with the births of four children. Although their marriage later ended in divorce, Ed and Bernadette were so grateful to one another for the children they shared. Ed’s children brought him great joy throughout his life, and they later gave him grandchildren — the very best gift!
New and exciting changes were in store for Ed when he met the woman who would become his soulmate. Her name was Ginger Sullenger, and they met when she was a new volunteer living in Elkhart and Ed was sent by the company to greet her in 1995. Though it took some time, sparks finally flew after four years of conversations and getting to know each other. Ginger was attracted to Ed's intelligence and humor. The sweethearts married in a museum in Elkhart in 1999. That location used to be an old bank and their memorable wedding photos include one of the couple behind the bars of the bank vault! The newlyweds honeymooned in Greece despite the fact that Ed didn't have a passport when the opportunity arose. Somehow, he managed to get one just in time. A natural romantic, Ed often sent Ginger the same flowers as she had in her wedding bouquet. In time, they moved to Michigan, eventually settling in Paw Paw.
With their adventurous and easygoing personalities, Ed and Ginger simply loved to experience life together. He fully supported Ginger in her business in Paw Paw, often telling her to, “Stick to it.” Ed also seized every opportunity to brag about her, telling everyone how wonderful Ginger is. They both enjoyed a nice wine, and over the years they built a fine collection for their wine cellar. Together they went camping in the true sense of the word with a tent on the ground and plenty of time to drink in the nature around them. Social and outgoing, Ed and Ginger always met people around the campsite and learned all kinds of new things. They were also world travelers together, often making their own maps and finding exceptional B&B’s. They discovered the best way to plan the next day's activities was simply to dine at a pub and ask the locals. Among their travels they visited Scotland by backpack, Portugal, Norway, and the Caribbean among other fun places. Wherever they went, Ed and Ginger fully immersed themselves in the people, the food, and the local customs. Chicago was a favorite destination, often just to people watch before Christmas. On one trip they stopped at Neiman Marcus. Ed was always an impeccable dresser, and Ginger convinced him to try on a tuxedo. He looked dashing, and although they didn’t purchase the tux, her point was simply to show Ed how high quality feels and fits.
Throughout his life Ed was one to keep busy. He loved soccer. In fact, one of his life goals was to attend the World Cup. That dream was realized when Ed attended a play-off game with his son, Ed III, near Detroit. An athlete himself, Ed was part of the Vintage Baseball League in Paw Paw, where they followed the 1886 rules of the game. Made up of players both young and old, the games were as much about baseball as having fun and sharing laughter with friends.
He was an amazing listener, but if you were to ask anyone who knew Ed they would tell you what an amazing storyteller he was. He had the astute ability to draw the listener into the story and leave them wanting more. Like a good Boy Scout, Ed was always prepared for any and every situation. With his natural conversational skills coupled with his humor, he was able to navigate through anything that came his way.
The imprint Edward Smietana, Jr. leaves on the lives of everyone who knew him runs deep, but perhaps the most timeless lesson he taught others was the great gift that is to be found in each new day. He took life in stride, often with a genuine humor that reminded himself and others that even the challenges in life help us grow. Through his work, and in the example he set by the way in which he shared himself with the people around him, Ed helped others be their best and encouraged them to reach their full potential. Deeply loved, Ed will never be forgotten.
Edward Smietana Jr., of Paw Paw, age 76, died on September 12, 2022. Ed was preceded in death by his granddaughter, Abbey. Surviving are his wife, Ginger; children: Edward III (Cynthia) Smietana, Eva (Michael) Espenan, Benjamin (Vivian) Smietana, Elizabeth (Anthony) Capezzuto, and Lee (Heather) Sullenger; grandchildren: Ethan, Caleb, Seth, Evita, Arlo, Vincent, Audrey, Anthony, Leo, and Alexandra; siblings: Patty (Bob) Steere, Chris (Bob) Craig, and Dennis (Linda) Smietana; as well as many nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Service on Thursday, September 22, at 11 AM at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Homes, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw, (269) 657-3870. A reception will follow at the Paw Paw Lions Club. Visit Ed’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Paw Paw Lions Club or LaSalle Council Boy Scouts of America.