If Charles Granville “Chuck” Smith had any regrets at age 90, he didn’t voice them.

In his final conversations with his eldest son, John, his thoughts went to his good fortune. “Why me?” he asked. “Why did I have such a great life?”

And by any account it was a great life — Smith built a construction business that contributed to Omaha’s livability; when he lost his first beloved wife to cancer, he was able to find a second woman to share his life with; he had his health and pursued a vigorous outdoor life; he had his wits — and kept them until the end; and was surrounded by the love of a sprawling but tight-knit family.

Molly Smith, a granddaughter, described her grandfather as “the embodiment of the proverbial American Dream,” in a family obituary.

An Army veteran, Smith married Nellie Mae Coggins in 1948 and supported his growing family by working at a railroad switchyard and doing construction on the side.

The couple had six children in eight years, sometimes struggling to make ends meet. But with his wife’s support, he sold the family’s home and launched a homebuilding business based on a single house he had built in Bellevue. By the 1970s, the company, Construction Sciences Inc., was one of the highest volume homebuilders in Nebraska. Among its developments were Brookhaven, Briarwood, Timbercreek and Pheasant Run, family members said.

Companion businesses, including C.G. Smith Construction, built metro area churches, schools, offices and apartment complexes, his son said. Among the churches he helped build was Faith Presbyterian, where his funeral service was held on Wednesday, according to the family.

He donated land for Midlands Hospital in Papillion, the Boy Scouts headquarters at 124th Street and West Maple Road and some of the parks in La Vista, his family said.

In 1986, Nellie died, prompting Smith to reevaluate his life, his son John said.

“It was a family business, he and my mom had built it together,” he said. “When Mother died, he lost interest in the business and he realized there were other things in life.”

Chuck Smith transferred ownership of the company to John and took up related enterprises with his two other sons, Tom and Ron. He spent more time with friends hunting and fishing. A state-ranked tennis player, he pursued that passion more intently and traveled with his grandchildren.

And he met his second wife, Susan Safford.

They were friends for years before they married.

“He was a loyal, loyal person,” she said. “I’m going to miss him.”

Curious and competitive, he found tackling challenges fun, she said. “Everything was a challenge,” she said.

In addition to Susan and his three sons, Smith is survived by three daughters, Jackie Kuper, Pattie Smith and Sally Smith-Roy; two stepchildren, Steven Safford and Stacey McKelvey; 13 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and six stepgrandchildren.

Smith died Aug. 31 of colon cancer.

In reminiscing about his father, John Smith picked out three themes to his dad’s life: lifelong learning, devotion to family and an embrace of life.

”He was always growing and learning; he never had a college degree, but he studied, studied, studied,” Smith said. “He loved his family, and he would do anything for them — he was very supportive of his children. And he really loved to experience life and the adventures it offered him. That kept him young into his 80s.”

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

(1) entry

Cris Vigness

Great Man and a wonderful family. So sorry for your loss. My Grandmother Arlene Boyd worked for Chuck for 51 years and will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

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