NEWLAND — A familiar face has returned to manage operations at Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home. Garrick Smith has been a part of the funeral home in various capacities for the past 32 years.
Smith retired for a short time in July of 2019. The passing of several close friends and family members prompted Smith to take a much-needed, albeit deserved, break from managing the funeral home. For five months he worked as the food and beverage manager at Grandfather Mountain. The change of pace was a welcome relief for Smith.
“The weight was just bearing down,” Smith said. “So for my health, it was just time to step back and get away for awhile. Shortly after I retired, Grandfather Mountain approached me and I went up there as the fruit and beverage manager. I absolutely enjoyed my five months there. I equate it to Psalms 121: ‘I will lift my eyes unto the mountain. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.’”
On Feb. 12, Smith received a call from the funeral home, asking him if he would consider returning. It did not take long for Smith to realize that this was where he was needed.
“I told them I would think about it, pray about it, and talk to my wife, Carol, and we did. We just felt like this was where the Lord wanted me to go back to,” Smith said.
Smith started at Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home in 1988, working at funerals, cleaning the cars and performing various other tasks. Smith worked while he was attending Lees-McRae College where he received a Bachelor’s degree in business administration. He then went on to attend Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service in Atlanta and graduated in 1994.
An Avery County native, Smith was impressed with the way the local funeral home owner had dealt with and comforted his family when a family member had passed when he was a child.
“Whenever I was nine years old, my uncle passed away. I remember Bill Laughridge, the funeral home owner at that time, being at my grandparents’ house. I remember the conversations they had about him and how grateful they were for him, and that just sparked an interest in me and that interest stayed for years,” Smith said.
Smith is an Eagle Scout and is currently serving the Banner Elk Scout Troop as Committee Chairman. Ever since he aged out of scouts, he has continuously kept his membership with the organization. He has volunteered as a junior assistant leader up through hierarchy to the position of scoutmaster. Smith has remained committed to the organization because it instills in young people a set of core principles and develops their character. It is this involvement in the community that Smith has brought to his position at the funeral home for the past 32 years.
“The biggest thing about our involvement in the community is that this is a place where people can come together,” Smith said. “From all walks of life, it doesn’t matter whether you come from the poorest family or richest family in Avery County. At this time, everybody is equal. People come here to support each other. You have to have that community spirit, which Avery County is known for.”