Eddie Smith Shares Thoughts On Being A Father, Grandfather

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Eddie Smith of Opelika has faced health challenges but never let them stop his desire to do his best as a husband and father. He shares thoughts on his role as a father and grandfather as well as offering advice to young fathers. Pictured at a family get together are, from left, James Durham, Ashley Durham, Ward Smith, Katie Smith, Edward Smith, Rosie Durham, Rivers Durham, Raleigh Durham, Dawn Smith and Eddie Smith. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY / FOR THE OBSERVER

By Ann Cipperly

As Father’s Day approaches, Eddie Smith gives his thoughts on being a father and grandfather. While he has dealt with health challenges over the years, Eddie has been determined they would never prevent him from being the best father and husband to his wife Dawn, as well as excelling in his work at AuburnBank and serving the community on the City Council. As Eddie looks at being a father, Dawn is sharing family favorite recipes they enjoy with their children, Edward and Ashley, and their families.

Ashley Smith Durham and her husband James live in Houston, Texas, and have three children, Raleigh, 12, Rivers, 9, and Rose, 7. Edward and his wife Katie reside in Birmingham and have one son, Ward, who is 9 months old.

“Being a father is one of the greatest things that has happened to me,” Eddie sayd. “First of all, being saved and a Christian, and second, the honor of marrying Dawn, having children and being able to raise them in a household with a mother that is awesome has made my job as a father really easy.

“One of the things that was challenging for me to be a father was the fact that I became paralyzed in 1990,” Eddie said. “I was concerned about how I was going to manage being a father and do all the things that I intended and expected to do. My son Edward was two years old when I became handicapped, and he has never seen me walk.”

Eddie is thankful his children have never had an issue with his handicap. “It was more worrisome and concerning to me, not to them,” he said. “When we went somewhere, they made sure it was accessible and did whatever was necessary to make sure I was able to participate in everything.

“I think one of the things it taught my children was to be understanding of people with challenges. I think in its own crazy way it was a blessing to raise them and have them understand that some people have bigger challenges than others and not to take anything for granted. I was so fortunate that I have some abilities to do things, which included going to dance recitals for 20 straight years and then coaching baseball for a long time, doing travel baseball and being involved in those things.”

Eddie feels fortunate that the disability did not prevent him from doing those things, but it was not easy. “My kids are reflective of the fact that Dad was always there to encourage them and to coach them, and hopefully lead them in the right direction.

“It has been a highlight of my life to have children, to raise them and see them start their own families and be happy.”

Now that Eddie and Dawn have grandchildren, he feels it is even better than having children since they can spoil them, letting them do what they want, then send them home.

Since Ashley and her family moved to Houston earlier this year, it has been challenging getting to see them. As James was getting promotions and flying back and forth to Houston from Opelika, they decided to make the move, and Ashley is now a stay at home mom.

Eddie’s advice for young fathers is not to miss any opportunity to be with their children and be involved with whatever their children are doing. “Always be available to them when they need to talk and when they need to cry or when they need to vent. Don’t always be opinionated to the point that you are not listening. I think that when you listen to them, you can hear what their issue is, then you can give them better advice.”

Eddie joined
AuburnBank in 1999 and is the Opelika president/senior vice president at the bank and is president of Opelika City Council. He has served as president four of the five terms he has been elected to serve Ward 4. Eddie has received numerous awards for serving the community he loves.

“Being a paraplegic, I have to stay very busy,” he said. “To be part of the community in the banking and government business has allowed me to keep my focus on those things and not be caught up in ‘woe is me.’ Anything I have done is because people were gracious enough to let me have those roles. I have been blessed that the people of Opelika chose me to be a council representative, and my peers have allowed me to be the president of the council.”

Looking back over his life growing up in Opelika, Eddie played football at Opelika High School and was active in Key Club, graduating in 1975. He attended Auburn University on scholarships while working at West Point Pepperell part-time.

In the summer of 1976, he began having loss of feeling in his legs. His family doctor sent him to see a neurosurgeon in Montgomery. After testing, the doctor discovered he had a tumor inside his spinal canal, which was rare, that he had had since birth.

Eddie had surgery to remove the tumor. When he recovered, Eddie thought that health problem was over. He returned to Auburn and was the first in his family to graduate from a four-year college.

After graduating with a degree in finance, Eddie went to work at the First National Bank in various positions. He furthered his education by enrolling in the School of Banking of the South at LSU.

In 1981, Eddie and Dawn married. Ashley was born a year later, and then Edward was born several years later.

Eighteen years after having the surgery to remove the tumor, he began having problems again in 1995. The tumor had grown back. “If I didn’t have surgery,” Eddie said, “there was a 100% chance I would be paralyzed, and if I had surgery, there was a 75 percent chance. Being a mathematician, I figured the odds and had the surgery.”

At first, he thought the surgery was a success, but when the doctor told him it was time to get out of bed, he could not sit up. He tried to stand but couldn’t. Since then, he has been paralyzed from his chest down.

When he left the hospital, he was on forearm crutches and pulled himself along, which turned into a walker and then a wheelchair by 1997.

“At that time I had to make a decision on how I was going to let the paralysis define me,” Eddie said. “My choices were sticking my head in the mud and being a cry baby about it, or trying to live my life as normally as I could. The fact that I was blessed with a wife and two children and in other ways, I didn’t see an option except for me to take it and do the best I could with it.

“I made up my mind I would never let being in a wheelchair be an excuse for me not to be the kind of father I should be, the kind of husband I should be or the kind of employee I should be.”

He has been active in the community over the years and continues to be involved. He was active in the Opelika Jaycees and in the Kiwanis Club, serving as president. He became involved in the Opelika Chamber and served as president, then served two terms as chairman of the board. He was a founding member of Envision Opelika that led to the development of the Miracle League and the Miracle Field.

One of his most rewarding volunteer work was serving at the Lee County Youth Development Center for 20 years, he said. Upon his retirement from the board, the administration building was named in his honor. His list of honors and awards is extensive.

“I still have days that are harder than others to get up out of bed and realize I have to deal with this,” he said. “I still have to get in the wheelchair before I can do anything else.

“I didn’t know God was going to pick these pathways for me, but I do think a lot of what we have gone through, good and bad times, have been a God thing. No one could go through those things if they did not have God on their side to assure them that things are going to be alright, and they have worked out alright.”

Eddie feels blessed to have a supportive wife that has allowed him to be the leader of the home as their children’s father. “It is the greatest role I have ever had, and second, to be a husband to Dawn. It has been an honor to have our children and now grandchildren.”

“My Daddy is a picture of grace and love,” Ashley said. “As a father, he holds high standards that are unquestionable, but he also shows mercy that imitates that taught by Jesus. Daddy always makes sure we know we are loved unconditionally, protected at all cost and cared for deeply. He has always taught us, by example, the difference between right and wrong, with no grey areas. While we didn’t always follow his instruction, we always received his grace when we came back to correct ways.

“My Dad is the definition of resilience,” Edward said. “Throughout his life he has overcome obstacles, some physical and others emotional, but never changed his perspective amongst it all. He has always loved the Lord, his family, his friends, his business customers and the public he serves through any and everything.

“His ability to enjoy his life and the people that surround him is truly admirable. For those reasons, and many others, I’m honored for my son to call him Pops, and for me to call him Dad!”

Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil

  • 1 lb. baby Dutch potatoes
  • 6 pieces corn on the cob
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 lb. raw medium shrimp, not peeled
  • 12.8 oz. pkg. smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley leaves for garnish

In a saucepan, add potatoes to boiling salted water. Cook just tender 10-13 minutes. Cook corn in water 8-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil baking sheet.

Combine butter, garlic and Old Bay Seasonings.

Place potatoes, corn, shrimp and sausage in a single layer on baking sheet. Stir in butter mixture and gently toss to combine.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with parsley.

Key Largo Lime Cake

  • 3 oz. lime Jell-O
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 and 1/3 cups oil
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • Frosting:
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon (can use All Lemon juice)
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Whipped cream for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make cake, combine all dry ingredients. Combine liquid ingredients except for flavorings and add to dry ingredients.

Beat eggs in and then add flavorings.

Coat a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until center is set. Do not overbake.

Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes. Using a fork, prick halfway through cake. Completely cover cake with frosting (will be thin).

Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Can be made at least a day ahead. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Green Pea Stacked Salad

  • 1 head of iceberg and leaf lettuce, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 1 can Le Sueur very young small peas, drained
  • ¾ cup celery, chopped into small pieces
  • ¼ to ¾ cup onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar, optional
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ to ¾ cup Parmesan cheese

In a trifle dish, layer lettuce on bottom, then layer peas, celery and onion; sprinkle sugar over top. Spread mayonnaise over salad to cover completely. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Place in refrigerate. Toss before serving.

Raleigh’s Favorite Green Beans

  • 2-3 cans green beans, drained
  • Peeled whole sweet onion
  • 6 beef bouillon cubes
  • Potatoes, optional

Place beans in a large pan or Dutch oven. Put onion in center of beans and cover with water. Add bouillon cubes. Cook on top of stove 45 minutes to an hour.

Can add peeled potatoes.

Ashley’s Black Bean Salsa

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 small cans white shoe peg corn, drained
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 container crumbled feta cheese
  • Combine together. When ready to serve, add marinade and stir.
  • Marinade:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients.

Oven Baked Boston Butt

5 -6 lb. Boston butt

Your favorite barbecue sauce

Rub:

  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • ½ to 1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground pepper

Combine rub ingredients and spread over pork butt, completely covering. Lightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place wire rack in roasting pan. Place pork fatty side up on rack. Roast uncovered until exterior is crisp and dry and internal temperature is 170. Can take 4 to 8 hours.

Remove from oven and carefully wrap pork in two layers of heavy-duty foil. Return pork to rack and cook until it reaches internal temperature of 190. Let rest 30-35 minutes. Shred and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Granny’s Potato Salad

  • 5 lb. Idaho potatoes, cut up
  • 1 jar dill relish
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ to 1 cup mayonnaise

Chopped onion or onion powder to taste

Boil potatoes until they are  “over boiled” a  little past being tender and a little mushy. Drain. Add dill relish and then other ingredients; stir well. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Mary’s Ice Cream Dessert with Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 lb. box vanilla wafers, crushed
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup butter, melted

Half gallon ice cream of choice

Chocolate Sauce for topping

Combine crushed vanilla wafers, pecans and butter. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan, coated with nonstick spray, for the crust.

Spread ice cream over crust. Sprinkle remaining vanilla wafer mixture over ice cream. Freeze.

When ready to serve, cut into squares and drizzle chocolate sauce over top.

Chocolate Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 5 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 cup milk

Combine and mix ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened. Keep hot in double boiler or reheat in microwave when needed.

Baked Chicken

  • Chicken breasts

Sauce:

  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • ½ tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. flour to thicken

Place chicken in a greased casserole dish. Combine sauce ingredients and spread over chicken. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Layered Spaghetti Casserole with Cheddar Cheese

  • 1½ lb. ground beef, browned, rinsed and drained
  • 1½ jars Ragu traditional pasta sauce
  • Mix Ragu sauce with ground beef and simmer 15 to 30 minutes. Set aside.
  • 16 oz. box thin spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • Mix hot spaghetti noodles with the two cans of mushroom soup. Set aside.
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

Coat a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Layer half of noodles and mushroom soup mixture, half of the ground beef mixture and half of the cheese. Repeat layers ending with cheese on top. Bake at 325 for 35 minutes.

Susan Davis’ Chicken and Rice Salad

  • 1 box chicken Rice a Roni
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 12 sliced olives
  • Green onions, chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. curry
  • ½ bell pepper, chopped

Don’t put butter in Rice a Roni when cooking as directed on the box. Add curry to mayonnaise before mixing with other ingredients. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Easy Brunswick Stew

  • Jane Wilson
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cans Swanson white chicken, drained
  • 2 cans Castleberry Stew (or use your own Boston butt with barbecue sauce)
  • 2 large cans tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 can shoe peg corn
  • 1 frozen roll white corn, thawed
  • ½ bottle hot ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon Juice

Brown onion in a skillet. Mix onion with other ingredients and cook in a crock-pot until ready to serve.

Strawberry Banana Salad

  • 3 (3 oz.) pkg. strawberry flavored Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 10 oz. pkg. frozen sliced strawberries, thawed and not drain
  • 15 ¼ oz. can crushed pineapple, not drain
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups sour cream, divided
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water; stir in strawberries with juice, pineapple and bananas. Pour half the mixture into an 8-inch pan and chill until firm. Store remaining gelatin at room temperature.

Spoon 1 cup sour cream on top of congealed mixture and then pour remaining Jell-O mixture over top; chill until firm.

When set, spread remaining 1 cup sour cream on top. Sprinkle pecans over sour cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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