David Smalley: 1941 – 2014

David Matthew Smalley, a longtime resident of Three Rivers, died Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, after an extended illness. He was 72.

A celebration of David’s life will be held Saturday, March 15, from 2 to 5 p.m., at the Three Rivers Arts Center.

David was born on October 8, 1941, in Canton, Ohio, to Philip J. Smalley and Doris L. Ryan. As a baby, David came to Los Angeles with his mother and grandmother because his father had been injured in World War II and was being treated at the V.A. hospital in Long Beach. 

The family remained in Southern California where David’s father worked as an engineer in the emerging aviation industry. David began working at Vons supermarket just a few weeks before his 16th birthday, but told them he was 16 and was hired. When he was 18 and still with the company as a journeyman grocery clerk, the truth came out. He was scolded, but not fired.

David fell in love with Nancy Gavette, the “cookie girl” in the store’s bakery. In 1960, they married. They had four daughters.

David’s daughters’ happiest memories growing up were the family vacations. They usually traveled in a camper or RV, and they explored the eastern Sierra, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Canada, and the western national parks. The only requirements seemed to be that each trip include some fishing and a stop in Las Vegas or Reno.

In 1981, the Vons store in Visalia opened and David transferred. He and Nancy relocated from Southern California to Three Rivers.

In late 1994, Nancy was diagnosed with a serious illness. With the help of several of his daughters, David was able to care for Nancy at their Three Rivers home during this time while also continuing to work at Vons. Nancy died in August 1995.

At Thanksgiving 1996, David met Peggy Blanchard of Three Rivers, who had moved here a few months earlier from Long Beach to work in the Tulare County Public Defender’s Office. They married on New Year’s Eve 1997 and continued to reside in Three Rivers.

From the time Vons in Visalia opened until he retired in 2003, David was the store’s liquor/dairy/deli manager. 

During their time together, and particularly after they both retired in 2003, David and Peggy traveled extensively. Before becoming ill in 2013, David was able to fulfill many items on his travel bucket list, including traveling to St. Petersburg and Moscow, exploring the wine country of France and gambling at a casino in Monte Carlo, attending Easter Mass conducted by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, exploring the ruins at Ephesus, Turkey, Stonehenge, and the Acropolis, and so much more.

David was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, Nancy; daughters Kelli Smalley and Elizabeth Nelson; his grandson, David “Q” Quintero; and his brother-in-law, Joseph “Jody” Scofield.

David is survived by his wife of 17 years, Peggy (Mary Margaret) Blanchard; his daughters, Dori Silveira of Bakersfield and Camille Smalley of Ventura; two granddaughters; four grandsons; his sister; his brother; and several nieces and nephews, including Evan Sturdivant and wife Mary of Three Rivers.

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