An Oklahoma community is celebrating a man who spent 57 years making the lives of Native American Children better through Jones Academy.
Jones Academy is a Native American boarding school just north of Hartshorne in Pittsburg County. It’s free through the Choctaw Nation and serves native children from all over the country and all walks of life.
Robert Smith worked at Jones Academy from he graduated high school in 1963 until his retirement this year.
To celebrate Smith’s many years of service, Jones Academy threw Mr. Smith a retirement parade Wednesday. Police cars and fire trucks led the parade and buses full of students made posters and dropped off balloons to show their appreciation.
Smith was actually a student at Jones Academy from seventh grade through high school. He started working in the maintenance department at the academy right after graduation. He eventually moved to dormitory staff, then served as dormitory supervisor for years before retiring.
His granddaughter Candice O’Daniel said Smith has made a positive impact on thousands of Native American children in his 57 year career.
“What I have heard over the last week is that my grandpa was always a constant to these kids,” said O'Daniel. “Some say he is the dad they never had or the grandpa they didn’t have growing up.”
She said even when Smith wasn’t working, he was still finding ways to encourage the students. He went to all the after school activities to cheer them on and would even lend a hand to agriculture students while showing animals.
“He always made sure these kids know they were supported and loved. Because at a young age he knew what is was like to be these kids. He knew the life. He knew because he was one himself,” said O’Daniel.
His granddaughter said Smith was so happy to see all the kids and people during the parade and told her he is truly blessed.
Mr. Smith plans to spend his retirement enjoying all of the extra time with his family.