The Evans High School family lost a brother when former baseball and basketball player Chance Smith was killed in a single-car accident Sunday morning.
The 2003 graduate was on his way home to McDonough, Ga., after celebrating his upcoming 27th birthday in Atlanta with his wife La-aia when the crash occurred.
Smith worked as an U.S. Army contractor and was scheduled to return to Afghanistan this week.
While his wife suffered a cracked sternum and deflated lung, the couple’s 3-month-old daughter Laina Madison was not with them.
From high school onward, Smith affected those he knew in a positive way.
Hank McCladdie was two years behind Smith at Evans High, but they played together on the baseball and basketball teams.
“He was like a big brother to me. He showed me the ropes,” said McCladdie, who was in Smith’s wedding in 2010. “He taught me how to handle myself in certain situations. He always said athletics and academics run together. He was a good student and I strived to do that.”
He also touched those who coached and taught him.
“He was a great kid, fantastic; all 'yes sir' (and) 'no sir,'” said Evans basketball coach Kevin Kenny. “He was a great kid and would do whatever you asked of him.”
Julie Kenny first met Smith when she taught him in her first year as a health occupation teacher when Smith was a freshman at Evans.
“I was a first-year teacher trying to learn classroom control," she said. "He would always sit there and smile at me. He had a beautiful, beautiful smile.”
After graduating from Evans, Smith played baseball for the Citadel until 2007. Citadel baseball coach Fred Jordan noted he wasn’t the best player on the team, but that he still made his mark.
“He was a very inspirational player with tremendous enthusiasm for the game and for the Citadel,” Jordan said. “He was a hard-nosed and athletic centerfielder.”
While baseball and basketball were his sports, football certainly wasn’t, according to longtime friend and 2003 Evans graduate Tanis Maynor.
“Everyone knew he was a baseball guy, but once he went out for the football team," Maynor recalled. "Travis Clark was the quarterback and the coach put him at running back. Travis handed him the ball and he tackled him. That was his last time on the football field."
Maynor was also in Smith’s wedding party, but was not looking forward to his next trip to McDonough.
“It’s tough. A year ago I was excited to be packing a bag to go to his wedding. Now, I have to pack a bag for his funeral," Maynor said. "It’s a hard week, it’s a struggle."
Before the birth of his daughter, Smith was eagerly anticipating becoming a family man.
“The last conversation I had with him was prior to him becoming a father,” McCladdie said. “He was excited and just happy. Being a father was something he was looking forward to.”
A viewing will be held Friday from 6-8 p.m. and a memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. Both will be at the Haisten Funeral Home, 1745 Zach Hinton Parkway S., McDonough.