Obituary: Thomas J. Smith

Jan. 9, 1940 – Aug. 27, 2023

Thomas J. Smith, 83, of Rockford, Illinois, passed away peacefully, with his loving wife, Jill, by his side on Aug. 27, 2023, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The son of Roy C. Smith and Julia (Washichek), Tom was born Jan. 9, 1940, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. He spent his youth working in his parents’ businesses in Door County, which included a cherry orchard and beer distributorship. He was a graduate of Sturgeon Bay High School (1958), and on Sept. 12, 1964, Tom married his true love, another Sturgeon Bay native, Jill Reis.

After a couple years running the beer business, winters living in an uninsulated cottage, including a near-death experience, plunging his International Scout through the ice on Clark’s Lake, Jill convinced Tom it was time for a change. So, in 1966, they moved to the Milwaukee area, and Tom went to work in the lab at Allis-Chalmers in Greendale, working on fuel cells for the space program. While working, raising his family, and attending night school, he later graduated from Marquette University (1968) with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

Following in his parents’ entrepreneurial footsteps, Tom and Jill purchased some rental properties, which they managed while living in Milwaukee. During his many years at Allis-Chalmers / Siemens-Allis / Siemens Energy & Automation, he worked in Greendale and West Allis, Wisconsin, and then moved to Sarasota, Florida and eventually Cincinnati, Ohio. He later worked at other companies in Cincinnati and Rockford, IL, where they relocated in 1992.

Tom was a loving and fiercely devoted husband and father. He worked hard, consequently instilling a strong work ethic in his kids. Tom relished spending time with his family, waterskiing, downhill skiing, sailing his Hobie Cat and planting trees on every parcel of real estate they owned. While he drew the short straw with Parkinson’s Disease, he hit the jackpot with his strong, loving, devoted wife and caregiver, Jill.

Survivors include his spouse Jill (Reis) Smith, Rockford, IL; his children, Shelley (Dave Yaniak) Smith, Janesville & Milwaukee, WI; and Shawn (Jill) Smith, Frederick, CO; three grandchildren: Sydnee, Parker, and Chandler Smith; his siblings Jim (Heather) Smith, Sturgeon Bay, and Greg (Mary Ellen) Smith, Sturgeon Bay; special friends, Pete (Iva) Carlo, Scottsdale, AZ; and many Reis in-laws, and nieces and nephews.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents and his brother-in-law, Jay Reis.

Family and friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial, which will be celebrated on Sept. 15, 2023, at 11 am at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Sturgeon Bay, with Fr. Matthew Rappl officiating. There will be no visitation prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, donations in Tom’s name to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research would be appreciated. Forbes Funeral Home is assisting the family. On-line condolences may be offered at

Sincere thanks to the entire team at ProMedica Hospice, with special appreciation to Tom’s dedicated caregivers, Deanna, Karla, and Tara. Your loving care and support have been priceless.