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Joseph Edwin Smyrl
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Obituary for Joseph Edwin Smyrl

Joseph Edwin Smyrl
May 13, 1926 – September 13, 2017

Joseph Edwin “Joe” Smyrl died early Wednesday morning, September 13, 2017, at the age of ninety-one, with family by his side, and the support of the attentive caregivers at Canterfield of Oak Ridge who eased his passing with love and humor – and enough sass to lift his spirits whenever he grew weary.

Joe was preceded in death, in December 2016, by Mary, his wife of sixty-seven years, whose passing he never reconciled and relived several times each day as tiny strokes impaired, more and more, his ability to remember his loving vigil at her bedside. His passing was so peaceful it is a sure bet that Mary was waiting for him with the car keys and they are driving the blue highways together in the red Blazer.

He also lost his parents, Ella and Samuel Smyrl; his Uncle Joe and Aunt Jesse Black who took him to raise at the age of four; and, seven brothers and sisters – all of Pennsylvania.

There were many witnesses to this life aggressively pursued – family, friends, professional associates, the AA community, his church, mentors, mentees, and others who variously enriched and challenged him through the times of his life. However, his best friend, and life companion, was Mary.

Mary and Joe lived in Oak Ridge beginning in 1950 where Joe took on increasing responsibilities with Union Carbide (and, later, Martin Marietta) while Mary provided a home and worked at her art and in the community. They met at Oberlin College where they both earned BA degrees – Joe’s on the G.I. Bill following a tour as a gunner with the US Navy towards the end of World War II. Their meeting and subsequent union was classic “JE.”

Joe fell head over heels for some business executive’s (Check Turner) daughter from Larchmont NY and he was determined to get her attention . . . this son of Pennsylvania’s coal country. So he introduced himself, advised her that he would be picking her up “with” his new convertible, and got the nod from Mary.

That evening when he arrived to pick her up, he handed Mary a toy car (convertible) and invited her to sit on the handlebars of his bicycle .

Joe and Mary leave behind four devoted children – Elinor (Roby) Trotter of Knoxville, Janet (Leonard) Jordan of Columbia SC, Joseph Smyrl of Gulf Breeze FL, and Sally (Bruce) Suttles of Oak Ridge; five loving grandchildren – Justin (Michelle) Peterson of Columbia SC, Samuel (Renee) Peterson of Virginia Beach VA, Jessica Smyrl , Sarah (Robbie) Tullock of Ooltewah and Mary (Daniel) Lawrence of Knoxville; and seven brilliant great grandchildren – Larkin, Aaron, Mary-Caroline, Elana, Trotter, William and Scarlett.

Joe and Mary were fortunate to have many loving friends but especially Marilyn and Steve Gould. A memorial service is being planned for Joe and Mary’s Anniversary date, December 27, 2017, 1 PM at United Church Chapel-on-the Hill. In lieu of flowers or other memorials a donation to The Pastor’s Discretionary Fund at the United Church Chapel-on-the-Hill would be most appreciated. An online obituary may be signed at

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Joseph Edwin Smyrl, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events

Celebration of Life




1:00 PM
United Church Chapel-On-the-Hill

85 Kentucky Avenue
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830


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