Dr. Wallace Bunnell Smith Profile Photo
1929 Dr. Wallace Bunnell Smith 2023

Dr. Wallace Bunnell Smith

July 29, 1929 — September 22, 2023

Lee's Summit, Missouri


Wallace B. (Wally) Smith was born on July 29, 1929, to W. Wallace and Rosamond (Bunnell) Smith in Independence, Missouri. In 1932, he moved with his parents and older sister, Rosalee, to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he lived and attended school until 1943. The family then moved to Portland, Oregon. This was during World War II, and his father, mother and sister were all engaged in wartime-related efforts while Wally attended school and worked part-time to earn money for college. He graduated from Grant High School in 1946.


In September of 1946, having just turned 16 a little over a month earlier, Wally boarded a cross-country train for Lamoni, Iowa, to begin student life at Graceland College. He sat on his trunk in the baggage compartment for the entire trip, which he later described as “the lowest point of my life up to that time.”


He graduated from Graceland with an associate degree in 1948, with a major in Pre-Med. After a year at the University of Portland in Oregon, he elected to finish his bachelor's degree at the University of Kansas, where he also attended medical school starting in the fall of 1950. This was during the Korean War, and although he had a medical school deferment, he knew that he would later be required to serve at least two years in the U.S. military. He graduated with an M.D. from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1954.


Wally joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in December 1954. After completing his medical internship, he was assigned to active duty at Pensacola Naval Hospital as a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Naval Medical Corps. While in Pensacola, he was accepted into the Aviation Medicine Training Program and received his wings as a Naval Flight Surgeon – as well as a promotion to lieutenant – in June 1956.


Shortly after arriving in Pensacola, Wally met his future wife, Anne McCullough, and he knew immediately that she was the one. Anne had just been assigned to Pensacola Naval Hospital as an ensign in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. They were married in June 1956 in Anne’s hometown of Beaver, Pennsylvania. Shortly afterward, Wally was assigned to the Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Air Station infirmary with additional duties as flight surgeon for a helicopter squadron on base. Anne transferred to the Portsmouth, Virginia, Naval Hospital.


In July 1958, after almost three years in the Navy during which time he flew many helicopter anti-submarine missions as well as fulfilling his general medical assignments, Wally left active duty to resume his medical training. He served one year of an internal medicine residency and then completed a three-year residency in ophthalmology at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KU Med). During this time, Anne worked as a nursing supervisor at KU Med, while juggling schedules with Wally to care for their daughter, Carolyn, who was by then a precocious toddler.


After completing his residency, Wally opened an ophthalmology practice with his brother-in-law, Dr. Otto H. Elser. It was a close professional association that continued for 14 satisfying years. Wally became certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and was a member of the American College of Surgeons. He also served one day every two weeks as an associate clinical professor in the ophthalmology residency program at KU Medical Center.


During this time of professional growth (1960s to 1970s), Wally and Anne’s family was growing, as well. Julie was born in 1962, and Laurie was born in 1964. In addition to his involvement in family and community activities, Wally was active in his church. As an ordained minister in what was then the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now Community of Christ, he served in several lay pastoral and administrative capacities. During this time, he began to feel himself drawn to full-time ministry.


Wallace B. Smith was a great-grandson of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder and first president/prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement. His grandfather and two uncles had served as presidents of the RLDS church, and his father was the current president. Wally had always known that he might be called to serve in a similar capacity but had never aspired to the position. He chose instead to pursue a medical career. In the fall of 1975, however, while he was focused on a busy ophthalmology practice, that “call” did come.


His father, W. Wallace Smith, had been the leader of the church for almost 20 years. At age 75, he was concerned about succession and wanted to maintain the tradition of leadership through the Smith family. Thus, in September 1975, W. Wallace designated Wally as the next leader of the church. This was subsequently approved by the church’s World Conference. In 1976, Wally retired from his medical practice to begin a two-year role as president-designate. During this time, he studied theology and traveled to numerous congregations throughout the U.S. and abroad to become familiar with worldwide church operations. In April 1978, Wallace B. Smith was ordained as prophet/president of what is now the Community of Christ church.


Wally led the church from 1978-1996. In addition to his general ministerial role, his duties included providing leadership to church administration, chairing numerous boards and committees, and presiding over the biannual World Conference. He guided the church through an era of seismic change that included building a Temple dedicated to peace, welcoming women into the priesthood, opening communion to all Christians, and expanding eligibility for the role of president beyond the Smith family.


He traveled extensively and visited congregations throughout the U.S. and dozens of other countries, preaching, teaching, and learning about cultural differences. Anne accompanied him on many of these trips. Whether it was to Kenya to participate in the dedication of a small church at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro or to the outback of Australia to share lamb chops in Fern Tree Gully, they appreciated the warm hospitality and devoted service of church members.


Beyond his church duties, Wally’s influence could be seen at the local, national, and international level. Building healthy communities and alleviating hunger and poverty were just a few of his passions. He served on the Board of Trustees of the American Lung Association of Western Missouri for more than 20 years and was a member of the association’s national council. He served on the Board of Trustees for the Truman Heartland Community Foundation and Independence Regional Health Center. He was active in the Independence Rotary Club.  He spent years working for the hungry through Bread for the World and chaired the Community of Christ World Hunger Committee. Wally and Anne also actively supported organizations like Outreach International, a group that works with communities to overcome the challenges of chronic poverty.


In retirement, Wally volunteered as a hospital chaplain, accepted occasional guest ministry requests,  spent lots of time with family and friends, and took up painting (a hobby he had enjoyed in the past).

He enjoyed attending church at his home congregation of Good Shepherd Community of Christ in Kansas City. For the last several years, Wally and Anne lived at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Wally loved the fact that all three of his daughters lived nearby and that all six grandchildren were either local or a car ride away.


Wally passed away on September 22, 2023, at the age of 94. He is survived by his wife, Anne; daughters Carolyn (Hugh) Wells, Julie Smith, and Laurie (Rick) Monsees; and grandchildren Jillian (Andrew) Barreto, Teppy Dimmitt, Melissa Dimmitt, Sabrina Monsees, Luke Monsees, and Collin Monsees.


A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, October 8 at 2 p.m. at the Community of Christ Temple, 201 South River Blvd., Independence, Mo. Doors open at 1 p.m. Streamed live on https://www.youtube.com/user/CofChrist


In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to Community of Christ in support of its ongoing mission.


Online condolences may be expressed to the family at www.speakschapel.com (Arrangements: Speaks Suburban Chapel (816) 373-3600)




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Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Sunday, October 8, 2023

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Central time)

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