James Neal Smith lost his battle to a rare form of renal cancer on Jan. 10, in Phoenix, Ariz.
He was born Jan. 23, 1946, in Leadville.
He served in the U.S. Marine Corps starting in 1963 and became a fighter, jet mechanic and helicopter machine gunner during the Vietnam conflict.
Smith began his 43-year career in 1969 at Lear Siegler. He joined Marshall Industries in 1970 and held sales and marketing positions before joining the ranks of management. In 1977 he became vice president of operations, handling all operations and information technology.
From 1980 to 1987, Smith was vice president of operations and vice president of semiconductor marketing for Kierulff Electronics. In 1987 he joined Wyle's Electronics Marketing Group as vice president of operations and quality assurance. In 1992, he was promoted to group executive vice president of operations and president of Liberty Contract Services. Smith became senior vice president of the corporation in January 1995 with responsibility for IT and value-added operations, representing 58 percent of the total company revenue. In January 1996 he became executive vice president of the corporation.
Smith was also responsible for the design of the company's state-of-the-art warehouse facility in Phoenix, Ariz. He was CEO of Atlas Services North America from 1998 until June of 2000.
After a short retirement break, Smith joined Avnet Electronics, becoming president of Avnet Logistics Worldwide. While at Avnet, it is said he continued to touch the lives of his coworkers and staff.
Throughout his career he mentored and was mentored by hundreds of people throughout the world. His lifelong friend and mentor, Ralph Ozorkiewicz, shared and embraced his emphasis on character and integrity. He carried these values into all aspects of his life in family and reaching out into the community. He was on the board of ICAN, a nonprofit charity, and supported it with his time and contributions.
It is said Smith enjoyed life fully and completely with his wife Karen Smith and that he was an amazing husband and shared the same qualities with family and friends. He was passionate about aviation and was looking forward to flying his plane in retirement. He enjoyed photography, travel and music.
He was a graduate of the executive program at the UCLA Graduate School of Management and MIT's Sloan School of Management.
Smith is survived by his wife of 33 years, Karen Smith; son Dave (Julie) Smith, Colorado, son Steve Smith, California and daughter Sharon Smith, California; brother Bill Wellman, Phoenix, Ariz.; and sister Barbara Wellman, Colorado; grandchildren Carolyn Smith, Alison Smith and Samuel Smith, Colorado, and Sara Smith, California.
He also is survived by his brother-in-law Robert (Ulla) Lindemann and their daughter Maja; first cousins Tom (Ann) French, Mary Ellen Lucero and Patsy Fear; nieces Karen (Jack) Kocerka and Lauren Wellman and nephew Dustin DeMille.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Catherine Wellman; father Neal Smith; stepfather Ralph Wellman and sister Suzanne Brackin.
Funeral arrangements by Messinger Pinnacle Peak Mortuary.