‘He could make anybody laugh’: Smith remembered by friends and teachers at Indianola Academy

By BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,

For a quiet kid, Caleb Smith never had a problem making his friends and teachers laugh.

He was funny, honest, confident and bright, according to those who knew and loved him.

Smith, 17, tragically lost his life on Sunday, after being accidently shot with a handgun at a friend’s home in Indianola early Sunday morning.

The IA junior’s life will be celebrated on Friday at 2 p.m. in the gym at Indianola Academy.

It has been a somber week at IA, but the fond memories of Smith’s sense of humor allow his classmates and teachers to smile a little through the tears.

“He was always smiling,” said Spencer Roberson, who was his friend and teammate on the Indianola Academy baseball squad. “He could make anybody laugh. I remember, everyday at lunch and break, all of the guys would be sitting there, and there’d always be something to laugh about if it came out of his mouth.”

Roberson said that Smith, who was often not a starter on the varsity baseball team, was a model teammate.

“Even if he wasn’t playing he was always there,” Roberson said. “Last year, during the state championship, a lot of the younger guys didn’t come to the games, but he was there for all of them. He’d always meet you at the front of the dugout to tell you good job if you did something, even if you didn’t do anything good, he’d be there to meet you to tell you good job.”

James Roberts said that he and Smith became friends from the moment Roberts moved to IA in middle school.

“When I moved here and changed schools in the seventh grade, he was probably one of the first people that I talked to, and he just acted like I had never moved and I had always been there,” Roberts said. “He was just as nice as he could be. A great guy.”

Lizzie Smith (no relation) met Caleb Smith when they were in the first grade.

Over the years, she got to experience his sense of humor first hand.

“He always eats tater tots at break, and I drink V-8 juice, and he’d always give me one tater tot in exchange for half of my V-8 juice, which wasn’t fair,” Lizzie Smith said, laughing. “He would always drink half of it, and he would say I could have one tater tot.”

Smith was no stranger to entertaining his circle of friends, but he wasn’t exactly known for getting on stage and performing.

That was until planning got underway for this year’s Junior/Senior prom event.

Smith’s history teacher and Junior/Senior organizer Cindy Baird said that she asked him to take the lead on a song, Old Town Road, and Smith fully embraced the role, to the point that he purchased a new Stetson hat for the show.

“I was kind of nervous, because sometimes he’s kind of quiet, but he said ‘Yes ma’am, I will,’ Baird said. “Well the next thing I knew, he comes to school with this big black Stetson. I said, ‘Whew boy, that hat looks good on you,’ and he said, ‘I know it does, doesn’t it?…I’ve been wanting to buy this thing, but it costs too much, but then I thought with this part, I better go ahead and buy it.’”

The hat became everyday attire for Smith, leading up to the production.

“He got his cowboy hat before we even started anything,” Roberson said. “He wore it the day of the first practice, and I don’t know if he took it off until after the performance. I’d pull up to school in the morning, drive over and roll down my window, and he’d roll down his window, and he’s wearing the cowboy hat. If you saw him driving in front of the school in the morning, he’d be wearing his cowboy hat.”

The hat ended up being a hit, just like his performance of Old Town Road at prom.

“When he performed Old Town Road, I didn’t have to tell him any stage directions, because he went out and nailed it,” Baird said. “He was the hit act of the show. Everybody stood up and was singing. It was a fabulous show, and I have never seen a child come alive like that on the stage. He lit up like a Christmas tree in every act he was in, but especially that one.”

Baird got to know Smith long before prom, as his first period history teacher. She said she was always impressed with Smith’s knowledge of history and things like World War II planes and bombers.

Ruth Carmen Poindexter, Smith’s English teacher, said Smith was always wanting to learn and make connections with material.

“He knew a lot about a lot,” Poindexter said. “He was always interested in doing anything we were doing, and he liked making connections between what we were reading and what we were doing.”

Poindexter said more than just being bright, she was more impressed with Smith’s honesty.

His professionalism led IA High School Principal Charlie Mason to pick him as office monitor this year.

“He was always quiet, but he wasn’t shy,” Mason said. “To me, he was just very thoughtful…A lot of kids his age talk more than they think, but he thought more than he talked.” 

IA counselor Rebecca Barrier said she will always remember Smith for having a smile on his face.

“He was a very easy-going child,” she said. “He seemed to get along with most everybody in his class.”

Smith’s passing will also leave a void in the dugout of IA’s baseball team, which will be wrapping up the season within the next couple of weeks.

IA Head Baseball Coach Clete Putnam says that he too will remember Smith’s smile and dedication to the sport.

“He was always in the game, always willing to do whatever, whenever,” Putnam said. “He was just a good kid and a good teammate. That’s all any of us can aspire to be in athletics is a good teammate, and he definitely was that. He was a pleasure to coach and a joy to be around.”

Community Bank has set up an account for Smith’s family in his honor. In lieu of flowers and food, donations can be made “In Memory of Caleb Smith Fund” and can be dropped off at the bank or mailed to Community Bank, P.O. Box 28, Indianola, MS 38751.

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