Weather Updates

Lake County man killed in bus crash remembered as adventurous grandpa

Updated: April 6, 2013 3:27PM

The 62-year-old man killed in a Lake County crash with a school bus was an “outdoorsy” grandfather with a knack for building things, his family said in a statement Saturday.

Phillip Smith, of Beach Park, was killed Friday when his yellow Jeep Wrangler was struck by a school bus carrying 35 students, authorities said.

None of the students were hurt, but Smith died at the scene, authorities said.

Smith was an entrepreneur who had owned several businesses, most of them in construction, his family said in a statement released by a friend.

“He could build nearly anything,” the family said.

Smith had built two planes and a glider at his home and he was in the process of building another plane.

“He confidently flew his two-seater planes. He took his brother-in-law for his first and only plane ride in one of his small home-built aircraft,” his family said.

And the family said the father of two was “hands-on and outdoorsy, and he always had a new interest or project,” they said.

“At one time, he built three pigeon coops for homing pigeons in his backyard,” the family said.

Because of his constant projects, “he was a regular at the hardware store,” his family said, adding he was a regular at “all of them.”

Apparently a Jeep enthusiast, Smith on Friday had been driving a “distinctive yellow Jeep he bought and customized for his wife as a Christmas present.” In August, he had planned to attend the Jeep Jamboree in Colorado and had built his own custom Jeep for the off-road “adventure weekend,” but he had built his own custom Jeep for the Jamboree.

Smith, who had a pilot’s license, grew up in Beach Park and Winthrop Harbor and built several homes in Zion and his own home in Beach Park.

He was a “great cook” and liked reading magazines

Though he was known as “Grumps” because of his “taciturn nature,” Smith “was the first to offer an ‘Atta boy’ or ‘Good job, kid,’” his family said.

“He spoke his mind, saying what needed to be said in a few words, but also was thoughtful. He carefully chose gifts and often surprised loved ones with a magazine subscription or something else he knew they would enjoy,” his family said.

Smith was married to Lisa Smith for 19 years; was the father of two daughters, Tracy Paulsen and Cassidy Smith, and the grandfather of Stephanie Smith.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.