William Hull Smith

Durango resident William Hull Smith died Thursday, July 19, 2012, at Sunshine Gardens Country Home in Durango. He was 97.

Known as “Bill,” he was born to Frank M. and Sarah Lynch Brown Smith on May 3, 1915, in New Haven, Conn. He grew up with eight siblings and half-siblings.

On Sept. 27, 1941, he married Eileen Duffy in New Haven.

During World War II, he served in the Army and achieved the rank of staff sergeant. Mr. Smith served in both the European and Pacific theaters. He was present at the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp and fought in the battle for Okinawa, among other campaigns.

Mr. Smith was a longtime resident of Hamden, Conn., before moving to North Haven, Conn. He had a long, distinguished career as a master gunsmith at Winchester Repeating Arms Co., his family said, continuing his craft well after retiring from the company in 1978, having accrued a nationwide reputation.

Mr. Smith moved to Durango in 2011.

“He had a zest for life, as well as a passion for boating and being with family and friends,” his family said. “His parties were legendary.”

Mr. Smith was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Eileen Duffy Smith; and daughter, Leslie S. McManus.

He is survived by his sons Brian Smith of Durango and William Smith of Brookfield, Conn.; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A wake was held Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at Beecher & Bennett Funeral Service in Hamden, with a memorial service Thursday, July 26, 2012, also at Beecher & Bennett. Burial with military honors took place next to his wife at All Saints Cemetery in North Haven. It was “followed by an Irish celebration of life that, but for the joy of reuniting with her, he’d have rather not missed,” his family said.

Condolences may be sent to brianwsmith1@cs.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to Mercy Health Foundation for the Hospice Residence, 1010 Three Springs Blvd., Durango, CO 81301.