In memory of

Francis “Kanky” Smith, age 91 of Helena

October 1, 1926 – August 12, 2018

Francis E. “Kanky” Smith

Francis E. “Kanky” Smith passed away on August 12, 2018 following a brief illness at the age of 91 in Fort Benton, Montana.  He was born on October 17, 1926 in Helena, Montana to Frank L. and Frances (Hudoklin) Smith.  He attended St. Ann’s Catholic School and graduated from Helena High School in 1944.

He acquired his beloved nickname at the age of two when his three year old cousin Luddie was unable to pronounce his given name, saying “Kanky”, instead. The moniker stuck with him for his entire life.

Kanky served in the United States Marine Corp during WW II from April 1944 to May 1946.  He fought in Okinawa and later served as a member of the peacekeeping forces in China. Upon returning from the service he worked a few construction jobs until he joined the American Chemet Corporation in 1949 Kanky was known as “Mr. American Chemet” serving for a robust 57 years finally retiring in 2006.

Kanky was a life member of the VFW Cory Dullum Post 10010 in East Helena.  He was also a member of the St. Louis Lodge and the KSKJ Lodge.

Kanky was an avid sports fan but he was particularly fond of the New York Yankees and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team.  As a youngster he played baseball with the East Helena Smelterites.  In later years he would often coach Little League Baseball teams in East Helena.  Kanky was an accomplished bowler and in 1954 his bowling team travelled to Seattle, Washington to participate in the American Bowling Congress Tournament.  Kanky also enjoyed playing billiards and could often be found “racking them up” at the local establishments in East Helena. On occasion, Kanky was willing to partake in “games of chance” and he tried his luck with the ponies and the keno machines in his spare time. . He delighted in completing his crossword puzzles and reading Western novels and history books.  Following a couple of health scares in his later years he moved to Fort Benton, Montana to be closer to his nephew, Mark. He resided at Sunrise Bluffs Estates where he could be found playing Pinochle with the other residents or brightening their day with his wit and delightful smile.

Some of our fondest memories of Kanky were when the family gathered at Gram’s to watch the Saturday afternoon NBC Game of the Week.  When the kids got too loud to hear the game, Kanky would lovingly shoo them out the door with money to go down to “Ruseks” to buy everyone candy!

Kanky, a bachelor his entire life was a kind, gentle, and generous soul who was quick to lend a helping hand when needed.  His warm and genuine smile along with the rising inflection of his voice upon greeting you will never be forgotten.  He will be missed dearly by all who had the pleasure to know him.

He is survived by first cousins Jim Grenier, Iris Maness, Barbara Rose, Carole Yadon, Sharlene Totten, Geri Loomis, Bradley Loomis, Carol Colyer, and Lucille Stump; nephews, Neil Smith, Stan Smith, Curtis Smith, and Mark Smith; nieces, Cassie Smith, Marla Yuhas, Leslie Smith and Angela Smith and numerous great nieces and nephews . He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers, Joseph, Robert, Kenneth and sister Isabel.

A viewing will be held Wednesday, August 15th from 12- 6:30 p.m., with a vigil following at 6:30 p.m. at Retz Funeral Home, 316 E. 6th Ave. A Funeral Mass will be held Thursday, August 16th at 11:00 a.m. at SS Cyril Methodius Church, 120 W. Riggs St., East Helena, 59635. A burial with military honors will following the Mass at St. Ann’s Cemetery. A reception will follow the burial in the social hall of the church.  Memorials may be sent to St. Ann’s Cemetery Association P.O. Box 525 East Helena, Montana 59635 or to an organization of the donor’s choice. Please visit below to give condolences or share a memory of Kanky.



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  1. Dawn Wrigg says

    What a dear sweet man. I was honored to know him. My condolences to the family. He will be missed.

  2. Marti Holland says

    I had the honor of working with Kanky for many years. His friendly face and bright smile could always turn a bad day into a great day. For all the years I worked in the office next to him, he never missed a day of work. He was totally devoted to his job and to his many friends at work. I will always remember Kanky as a kind and humble man and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to know him. God Bless you Kanky, and safe travels on your new journey!

  3. Bill Dolan says

    On behalf of the Dolan family, I send our condolences to the Smith family. Kanky was truly one of a kind and an East Helena icon. I had the good fortune to be coached by Kank “the Yank” and Jerry “the Giant” as a member of the East Helena Red Sox. Those were some of the best days of my life. Kanky and Jerry were so generous with their time and taught us the finer points of baseball. We were always the best fundamental team in the league. I maintained a strong relationship with Kank and Mrs. Smith as I grew up. I have very fond memories of listening to Notre Dame football games at their home. It was always a bonus when you crossed paths with Kanky. I know heaven has one more Yankee and Irish fan rooting them on from above! Thanks for everything you did for the youth of East Helena. You will be forever in our hearts and memories. Bill Dolan

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