KENTON — Judge Burke Elliot Smith was born on Jan. 23, 1925, in Kenton, to Dorothy R. Smith and Carl W. Smith and passed quietly at his home on April 16, 2014. He is preceded in death by his wife, Jacquelyn Smith, on Oct. 6, 2008. Burke and Jacquelyn Smith were married on Sept. 28, 1952. They have four sons, Bruce M. Smith, Scott E. (Melissa) Smith, Stephen B. Smith and Burke “Chip” E. Smith, II; five grandchildren, Brandon Smith, of Syracuse, N.Y., Jordon Smith of Columbus, Shelby Smith, of Farmerville, N.Y., Allison Smith, of Lakeview, and Jacquelyn Smith of Lakeview; Dorothy Jean Burke, parents and sister.

Burke was reared in Kenton and educated in the Kenton school system. He participated in many school activities, varsity athletics and graduated from Kenton High School in May, 1943. Thereupon, Burke was inducted in the United States Army, serving in the 35th Infantry Division with General Patton’s 3rd Army across France and was wounded in Bastonge, Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge upon which he was awarded The Purple Heart. He spent nine months in hospitals in France and England and was discharged from Percy Jones Hospital Center, Fort Custard, Mich.

A few months later, in February 1946, Burke entered Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and later graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management. That same year, Burke entered law school at Ohio Northern University in Ada, later graduated and was admitted to the Bar in 1954.

However, while working his way through school, the best thing that ever happened to him was being introduced to his future wife, Jacquelyn Lewark. Burke and Jacquelyn Smith were married on September 28, 1952, and are the proud parents of Bruce, Scott, Stephen, and Chip.

Burke returned to Kenton in 1956 to practice law with John L. Roof. He was the City Solicitor for the Village of Ridgeway from Jan. 1, 1956 to Jan. 1, 1961. He was appointed Chairman of the Hardin County Red Cross and helped re-establish the blood program. He was elected Chairman of the Hardin County Democratic Party Executive Committee and went on the Board of Elections in 1958 serving as a Board Member and was Chairman. In 1968, the Election Officials Association elected Burke as the State President of the Association and one of his projects was to try to get voting machines in every county as at that time Hardin County was still using paper ballots.

In the early 1960’s, Burke was also elected to the Hardin Memorial Golf Board Association serving two terms as Chairman of the Board. A water system and a tree program through a bond issue with three participating local banks was instituted and subsequently implemented. He also served as Co-Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee to build the Mary Lou Johnson District Library. Burke was active as a coach of Little League Baseball for 10 years.

Burke ran for and was elected to the Kenton Municipal Court bench in Nov. 1970, and was re-elected in 1976 for a second term. In 1978, Burke ran for the Common Pleas Bench, Probate and Juvenile Divisions, and was elected and re-elected to the bench in successive terms. He was active in the State Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, served on the Executive Committee and was the Vice-President of the Association at the time he retired on December 31, 1991.

During his terms on the Common Pleas Bench, Burke was chairman of the State Association Standing Committee on Parentage and authored the Ohio Jury Instruction Charges on paternity. He was the first judge to use DNA testing in paternity trials in Cuyahoga County that was subsequently adopted throughout Ohio.

Burke is a Past President and lifetime member of the Hardin County Bar Association. Burke was a 32nd Degree Mason and Past President of the Hardin Shrine Club. He has been a lifelong member of the Trinity United Presbyterian Church where he served as Elder, Deacon, and Trustee. He served as Exalted Ruler of the BPOE Elks Lodge, in Kenton, serving in 1963 and 1964, at which time the lodge was enlarged and renovated. He was also a member of the American Legion, V.F.W., D.A.V., the Military Order of the Purple Heart, charter member of the Hardin Chapter 590, and member of the Moose Lodge. Burke also helped incorporate the Hardin County Retarded Children’s School, which is now Simon Kenton School.

Burke received awards by the Supreme Court of Ohio for excellent and superior judicial service. The State Association awarded him a special citation for the Juvenile Court Driving Seminar and Drug Program held every month for the juvenile traffic offenders and their families. Burke was also honored by the Ohio Northern University School of Law by having a Mock Trial Competition named in his honor. The Burk E. Smith Mock Trial Competition is held annually at Ohio Northern University and Burke was able to preside over the most recent event.

Burke served 34 years on the bench and heard literally thousands of cases, most of which have affected people’s lives in some way. Burke’s generation lived through the Great Depression, and the longest war that was ever fought.

Burke often said, “When the Government passed the GI Bill of Rights at the end of World War II they invested in our generation the future of the country, as and for the gratitude for what that generation endured in the war to save democracy for America. The millions of men and women that received their education and GI benefits went forth and built the greatest country in the history of the world. I have faith in the people that they will keep sacred this legacy of our democracy and our form of government build on the Constitution by our Founding Fathers who believed in the separation of powers of the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch. I cannot appreciate enough the opportunity that I had to serve in the judiciary, whose life’s blood is its independence. And I am forever grateful to my Creator that I was part of all of this in my lifetime.”

A funeral service was held at 1 p.m., on Monday, April 21, 2014, at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Kenton. Burial followed in Grove Cemetery where full military rites were conducted by the Amvet’s Post 1994 Honor Guard.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Ohio Northern University, College of Law, Burke E. Smith Mock Trial Competition.

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