On the evening of February 5th, I had to run out to pick up something at the Walgreens store at the corner of Barfield and San Marco Road. Prior to that, I was sitting at home and working on an article for a future edition of the paper. Then, I heard the sound of the Collier County Med/Flight on its inbound approach to the landing pad behind the Urgent Care Center.
Upon finishing up my errand and a little shopping at the Publix across the street from the Walgreens, I decided to drive down San Marco to make the turn onto Bald Eagle for the ride home. That intersection was completely blocked, and I was required to proceed down the detour and follow that route home.
Later that evening, I was advised that the person involved in what appeared to be a very serious accident was a good friend of mine, Clayton Smith. He was a Lieutenant on the Marco Island Police Department and he had been airlifted up to the up to the Lee County Trauma Center where later he passed the next morning.
I knew I would be required to follow up on the story and write the news article regarding the accident which took Smith’s life, but I also knew I wanted the community to know who Clayton Belmont Smith was as a person; because that is the real story.
He was 58 years old and was a loving and devoted husband to his wife Lisa and father of 7 precious children: They included two married sons Ryan and his wife Stacy, along with son Eric and his wife Deidra. Daughters Lauren, Lindsey and Kaitlyn and two additional sons Clayton and Zachary. They were also blessed with four beautiful grandchildren: Mackenzie, Colton, Christopher and Lyla. To say he loved his family would be an understatement.
He was a dedicated law enforcement professional, having served 25 years with the Springfield Township Police Department. That agency was on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio and they had 50 sworn officers. He was also a longstanding member of the Hamilton County Swat Team in addition to being a certified law enforcement instructor in the State of Ohio.
He would also focus his priorities in his field to be a mentor to those without the same valuable experience which comes with time on the job. He could have been best described as a “cops cop,” and would take a no-nonsense approach to ensure all he came in contact with would go home safe at the end of their shifts.
After 25 years on the job in Ohio, Clayton packed up his family and moved south to join the Marco Police Department. All that would allow themselves to know him would come away with great respect and admiration for the man. There wasn’t a task he wouldn’t take on, and none he wouldn’t give his 110% best effort.
He would continue to carry his skills as a mentor and instructor within the Marco Department, instructing in proper and safe firearm handling. He would also instruct in how to handle active shooter situations in our local schools and other public places in an effort to protect our most vulnerable. In 2018, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and put in charge of the patrol division, doing what he did so well.
His love of the water and outdoor activities was evident from the day he arrived. Fishing was a true love of Clayton’s and his subsequent friendship with officers such as Bob Marvin. Marvin, who had retired from the Collier County Marine Division and then became a marine officer for Marco, was a natural fit for the two. The stories both could tell about fishing exploits were legendary.
Both men assisted fellow officer Josh Ferris in his passion for raising money for the event Crossing For A Cure. That fundraiser benefited the research being done to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. Ferris has paddled from Bimini to Lake Worth, Florida for the last three years and has been assisted in the past by Marvin and Smith.
If not fishing on the waters off Marco or in the Keys, Clayton’s most enjoyable times on the water were spent with his beautiful wife Lisa, aboard one of those magnificent cruise ships that sail from tropical islands to exotic ports off our shores here and in the Caribbean. Clayton worshipped the ground that Lisa walked upon and his time with her on these excursions were well documented with fun pictures and great stories they would share with their friends.
I was privileged to know Clayton and his wife and to have called them friends. I write this to tell you about a human being, a real person who just didn’t put on a uniform and went to a job where many times he wasn’t appreciated by those he had sworn to protect. He went to a job he had great pride in. A job where he served and protected the public from all manner of unfortunate potential misdeeds by those that might do that same public harm.
He was a man that took pride in holding his daughters or sons in his arms when they were young and pride in them as they matured into adults and went out on their own. He also took great gratification and enjoyment in hugging those four wonderful grandchildren, just like you do when you hold yours.
He especially loved the touch of his beautiful wife’s hand when they would walk along the beach or shared a moment at home, or on one of those magnificent cruises they so loved to take.
I wanted to explain all this to you so the next time you hear about the passing of one of our law enforcement professionals you remember that he or she was a person, not just a badge number or a statistic.
They are the people who put on their uniform every day to serve you and me. They do so at great risk to themselves, as they may never again see those they love. They shouldn’t be tabloid fodder for media outlets, but instead treated as the respected professionals they are.
God Bless You, Clayton Smith, and thank you for your service.