A talented young artist with a bright smile, USAO junior art student David Smathers was tragically killed in a car accident early Saturday morning, Oct. 5, 2002, along I-35 in Moore. A memorial service honoring Smathers is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunnylane United Methodist Church, 2020 S Sunnylane in Del City.
An accomplished artist with several commissioned works, Smathers was known for his positive attitude and strong artistic -- and athletic -- abilities.
“He was an extremely talented artist,” said Kent Lamar, professor of art and head of the art department. “He was a salesman – he could sell you anything, from his concept to what grade he was supposed to get. He loved life, and was always happy. We are really going to miss him.”
Hollis Howard, an associate professor of art, echoed his colleague’s sentiments: “David was one of my best painters. He had lots and lots of talent and a bright future. His personality shined out, and lit up wherever he was. He was always happy and smiling. I really liked him.”
One week ago, Smathers was interviewed by OETA Channel 13 reporters for a documentary segment about USAO in the "STATELINE" series. The program that includes Smathers is scheduled to air Oct 23-27 on OETA stations. Smathers' unique artwork also was the subject of other news and feature stories.
Well-known and well-liked across campus, “Smaz,” as he was affectionately known, made an indelible mark on his closest friends and fellow students.
“I remember David telling me, ‘I don’t do any one thing great, but lot of different things very well’,” recalled roommate Jon Fisher of Oklahoma City, a senior art student. “He was an artist; he played ice hockey; he played the guitar; he was a cyclist and the list goes on and on. He is an image of what a modern-day Leonardo Da Vinci would have been. David was the type of person who lit up a room. He touched the lives of everyone he met. David was and always will be an inspiration to me.”
Close friend Jennifer Lewis, a senior communication major, added: “Every time I was feeling sad or down, he would always have something uplifting to say to me. He was funny and a great person to be around. He made the world a better place.”
USAO President John Feaver expressed concern Monday for the campus family. "USAO is not a collection of historic buildings but is a flesh-and-blood family of students, alumni, faculty and emeriti, staff and leadership. Our sympathy goes to the Smathers in their family's great loss. It will be a significant loss for the college family as well, as David's contributions in the art department and to our campus community were valuable and lasting."
In Smathers' memory, campus flags will be flown at half-mast on Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement released by the president's office. A moment of silence in his honor will be observed campuswide at Noon on Wednesday. In addition, the USAO Alumni Chapel will be open on Wednesday afternoon from 2-4 for quiet contemplation by members of the campus family. For students who may feel they need it, counseling is available in the USAO Office of Student Services, Troutt Hall 112.
In one story about his artwork, David Smathers said he discovered his artistic talent as a boy in elementary school, when he used to draw at the top of his test papers and homework assignments.
“I’ve drawn my whole life,” Smathers explained, after his artwork was chosen for major statewide exposure. “I used to get in trouble, because everything I turned in at school I would draw on. I think my teachers realized I had a talent for it."
Smathers’ work recently was displayed at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma State Fair and other venues across central Oklahoma. “Serenity Rolling In” shows the beginnings of a storm rolling across the desert and is painted on a fiberglass horse.
An accomplished hockey player who turned down the chance of a future in hockey to become an artist, Smathers had been asked to paint several more horses, including one for Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys. Smathers’ work was not limited to horses, however. He did some work for Oklahoma City officials, including a scene of the city skyline pictured with the several MAPS projects.
The youngest of Larry and Kathie Smathers’ three sons, David played hockey for 11 years, including four at Moore High School, where he graduated in 1999. He was very active in a Sunday hockey league, was a certified hockey referee, and worked part-time at Best Buy.
“I’m always doing something,” Smathers once said. “I love what I do, and feel sorry for all the people who have to work in cubicles. I also wouldn’t be able to do what I do, if not for the support my parents. I owe a lot to them.”
David Smathers was born Feb. 15, 1981 in Oklahoma City.
He is survived by his parents of the home, two brothers: Steven John Smathers, SSG USAF, and Aaron Michael Smathers of Norman; grandmother Winnie Guest of Moore; grandparents Karl and Arlene Smathers of Del City. He also leaves a host of other relatives and friends. Interment is scheduled at Sunny Lane Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Art Department at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Attn: Kent Lamar, 1727 West Alabama, Chickasha, OK 73018-5322.