LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Paul “Cooster” Smith may have been born in Vonore, but La Follette claimed him as its own after he and his family moved here when he was a child. Though you would be hard pressed to find anyone in town who knew Paul Smith. However, if you mentioned Cooster, that was a different story. He was a one name person, and it generally wasn’t Paul.
He was best known around the golf course, at Smith Hardware or at his beloved First Presbyterian Church.
Golf was his passion. On the course, he was an excellent player and won a number of tournaments, and he loved playing with his father and friends.
At Smith ACE Hardware, he was the man who had anything you needed. His inventory and variety were unmatched. There was no shortage of friendly assistance either; from his mother, Reba, also known as Momma Cotty, the colorful greeter and conversationalist to his wife Edith and the rest of the staff.
“He was such an honest man,” said Pearl Harper. Harper was a fixture at the store for years working for the Smith family. “If we had trouble with a product, that was it. Cooster would not carry it anymore,” added Harper. She described Cooster, and his late wife, Edith, as the finest people you’ll ever meet.
Sherman Campbell started to work at Smith Hardware when he was in high school. Cooster once said that Sherman was so shy when he started that it was all he could do to say hello to a customer all the while blushing. Fast forward a few decades, and Campbell is now the owner of Smith Hardware along with his business partner Debra Miller.
“Cooster was one of the kindest people I have known, taught me a lot on how to run a hardware store and how to treat people,” said Campbell. Campbell closed the store on Tuesday afternoon for Cooster’s funeral.
Smith served as an encourager and adviser to Campbell. “I always valued his opinion and often got advise from him. I will always be grateful to him for giving me an opportunity to become what I am today,” added Campbell.
Cooster and Edith were lifelong members of the First Presbyterian Church in LaFollette. He served as a deacon and elder and Edith served two terms as President of the Women’s Presbytery. He often worked behind the scenes to see to a needed repair at the church or manse or to lend a helping hand to someone in need.
“He may be the last of that generation that contributed so much to our town,” said Ron Pierce, owner of Pierce Furniture Gallery. Pierce’s father, the late Carl Pierce, born the same year as Smith, 1925, was among that generation.
A brief graveside service will be held this morning at 10 am at the United Fincastle Methodist Cemetery. The Reverend David Maude will be officiating.
Paul McCollum “Cooster” Smith was 96- years- old. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/07/2021-6AM-PHOTOS COURTESY OF WLAF’S CHARLIE HUTSON)