James Luke Smail, 82, of Lander passed away on February 18, 2020, at Wind River Rehabilitation & Wellness in Riverton. He was born on April 25, 1937, in Rock Springs, Wyoming to James and Reola (Luke) Smail. At a young age, he moved to Lander with his parents where he continued to live for most of his life. For years he worked alongside his father at Smail Motors where they operated a garage/filling station on Main Street as well as a Willys/Jeep Dealership. He was a 1955 graduate of Fremont County Vocational High School and a 1960 graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Jim married JoAnne (Roe) on June 21, 1959, in Lander. Shortly after graduating, they and daughter Cindy moved to Pampa, Texas where he was employed by the Celanese Corporation until the Wind River Mountains and Red Desert of Wyoming called him back to the country he loved and embraced. Upon his return to Lander, two more daughters, Debbie and Kris, were born to the couple after Jim had joined his father in operating the newly-constructed Husky Super Station for several years. They later set up their business at Fifth and Garfield Street where they continued to sell Jeeps and then added Ski-Doo snowmobiles to their line, becoming one the first dealerships to introduce snowmobiles into Fremont County and the State of Wyoming. Although the couple divorced, they have continued a lifelong friendship driven by a desire for family unity and true enjoyment in each other’s company.
Many friends and acquaintances will remember Jim as an avid outdoor enthusiast who loved the mountains, desert, fishing, snowmobiling, motorcycle riding, piloting fixed-wing aircraft and Jeeping in Moab. He also loved spending time with his family and friends and shared with all that met him his appreciation and knowledge of nature and of the many gifts that Wyoming provides. He spent years racing and testing Bombardier snowmobiles & motorcycles and also riding just for the sheer pleasure. The snowmobiling industry profited greatly from Jim’s dedication, knowledge, and vision. He was instrumental in the development of the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail and was employed as the Snowmobile Trails Coordinator for the State of Wyoming where he worked tirelessly for many years advancing the sport locally as well as over the Intermountain West. In 1998 he was honored by being inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame and was extremely proud to be a member of the prestigious group Iron Dog Brigade as well as a dedicated Lander Snowdrifter. Jim also pursued and maintained a vast knowledge of local Red Desert history including the Oregon Trail & cut-offs, stagecoach trails & stations, pony express stations, medicine wheels, teepee rings, pictographs & petroglyphs. His curiosity and memory were boundless. After retiring from the State of Wyoming, he continued to utilize his love of the trails, history and outdoors by working for the U.S. Forest Service in trail maintenance and permit enforcement. His expertise with recreation in the Wind River Mountains, initiated by his grandfather and father and then honed by himself, earned the respect of those with whom he worked.
Jim is survived by his children, Debra Mitchell of Tooele, UT and Kris Smail Collins and husband Randy of St. George, UT, along with grandchildren Tami Mitchell, Jake Mitchell, Luke Mitchell, and Galen Mitchell of Tooele, UT, great-grandchildren Tavis Mitchell, Bryker Mitchell and Kamden Mitchell of Logan & Tooele, UT, his sister Betty MacNaughtan and husband Tom of Heber City, UT, his aunt Jeanne Lee and Ben Weeks of Lander, beloved companion and caregiver Ginny Isabell of Lander, her daughter Kim Farley and husband Jef of Parker, CO, her son Cully Goehring of Lander, her grandsons Jeremy and Chris Farley of Parker, CO, also his very dear and supportive friend Norma Nelson, numerous relatives and a very long list of friends made over the years. He was preceded in death by his father, mother, grandparents, longtime friend & second wife Edna James and eldest daughter, Cindy Moore, who succumbed to ALS in 2015.
Jim loved to exercise his curious mind, take it for a ride, explore the past, present & future and always, “Hunt some new country”!
Although we will be taking some time to mourn his passing in private, we are looking forward to a Celebration of Life service this summer when all of his friends & family are able to attend and will post the information when we have an exact date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made in Jim’s honor to Lander Snowdrifters, PO Box 281, Lander, WY 82520.
You can sign the online guestbook at hudsonsfh.com or cards may be addressed to the Smail Family, PO Box 714, Washington, UT 84780.
The family would also like to express their appreciation to friend Jim Hutchison, PA-C & the physicians at Lander Medical Clinic, the caregivers & management at both Showboat Retirement Center and Wind River Rehabilitation & Wellness, the hospice workers at Help for Health and all those who were instrumental in making his last days pleasant, comfortable and peaceful.