The Fairfax County Park Foundation, a charitable organization which supports the Fairfax County Park Authority, is honoring Ann Smith with a 2015 Eakin Philanthropy Award.
In memory of her late husband, Lt. Colonel Gary F. Smith, Ann Smith worked with the Park Authority and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland to identify Grist Mill Soccer Field #5 for renovation into a state-of-the-art synthetic turf soccer field and renamed the field as the Lt. Colonel Gary F. Smith Memorial Field.
As part of the renovation, park planners widened it and will install six permanent goals enabling it to serve two youth league games simultaneously and convert quickly to one adult field. The $200,000 donation by Ann Smithin addition to other fundraising she assisted, allowed the field to be scheduled for early renovation along with two other fields. The field was dedicated and renamed at a ceremony attended by family, friends, and Ccounty staff on April 28, 2012. The late Lt. Colonel Gary F. Smith served as a Lee-Mt Vernon Soccer coach for 12 years and enjoyed coaching his daughters and others during that period of time. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated field is scheduled this November at the Lt. Colonel Gary F. Smith Memorial Field at Grist Mill Park.
Lt. Colonel Gary Smith, a retired U.S. Army officer, served as a communications liaison employee whose job was to help explain veterans benefits and pension programs to U.S. Army veterans nationally. On 9/11 he was at a Pentagon meeting to discuss ways to expand computer use as a means to improve and expand communications with Army veterans. He was killed when the hijacked American Airlines Flight #77 struck the Pentagon.
He had a B.A. degree in political science, Creighton University and a M.S. degree in systems management, University of Southern California. His overseas and U.S. assignments included: Communications Officer, 546th Infantry Division, and as an S-3 and S-4 of the 523rd Signal Battalion, 23d Infantry Division deployed at Chu-Lai in the Republic of Vietnam. Later, he served as director, Army Family Support Directorate of the Army Community and Family Support Center, Alexandria. His decorations include the Soldiers Medal, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army General Staff Identification Badge, and the Parachute Badge.
The Eakin Philanthropy Award, established in 2009, is named in honor of the Eakin family, donors of the first parcels of parkland to the Park Authority over 50 years ago. The award was selected by unanimous vote of the Fairfax Park Foundation Board of Directors.
Note: The Mount Vernon Gazette published two earlier stories about Lt. Colonel Gary Smith’s 9/11 death, interviews about him and his family, and the memorial field dedication ceremony in Sept. 7, 2006, and May 3, 2012. They are available in the www.connectionnewspapers.com archives.