Louis “Louie” Joseph Smarjesse
Louis “Louie” Joseph Smarjesse, 88, passed away suddenly on Friday, February 12, at his home. By outliving medical predictions that he should have died 15 years ago, his enormous will to live shown bright and proved Dave Bakke right, when he wrote years ago in a headline for the Journal Register – “I always knew Louie Smarjesse was an exceptional guy. Now I have proof.”
Born to Rose and John Smarjesse on October 3, 1932, he attended St. Peter and Paul School where he said he learned everything from a very strict Sister in 8th grade.
He left Cathedral High School early to join the Army, finishing his schooling in the Army and serving on Okinawa during the Korean War. He scored so high on Army tests that he was placed in Intelligence and Reconnaissance and fortunately pulled out of line where the first soldiers boarded trucks for Korea.
Among his many careers, he managed the Kinney shoe store on the square in Springfield and one in Lafayette, Indiana; moved furniture for a local store, worked at a meat plant, and tended bar (all at the same time); sold cars for Friendly Chevrolet; worked as a common laborer; sold life insurance; and collected for All Star Music. His true passion was in hospitality and, specifically, bartending which gave him the opportunity to entertain and be entertained by his customers. Louie owned the memorable Supper Club, the Sand Bar, and Griff’s Tavern; co-owned the Blue Moon with his brother, Bob; managed The Sportsman where he fed the piranhas; bartended in 23 restaurants and bars (Milano’s, Abe Lincoln Hotel, Mansion View, Governor’s Mansion for Governor Walker, Robin Hood, Par-a-dice, Village Pump in Indianapolis, Flaming Pit, Don Henry’s, Harness House, Ideal Lounge, Rosalie’s Place, D & J’s, Dicenso’s Black Angus, Ember’s, George Rank’s, Ben’s Place, Top of the Arch, Lake Club, Governor Hotel, Oak Crest Country Club, John’s Lounge, Brass Rail. But, he is best known for the many years he worked at Gabatoni’s. He managed to retire 3 times, but only 1 actually stuck just a few years ago—working a nine hour shift at age 83. All of these adventures resulted in wonderful stories he was asked to tell by family and customers. Those who knew him always asked him to write a book, but, sadly, he never did. So, we are compiling a memory book of Louie and hope you will email your stories of him or those he told you to [email protected]
Louie always gave more than he took in life. Whether helping his children or bailing customers out of jail, he never said no. He was ‘authentically old school cool’ according to his son, Charly. He was an icon for his stories and loved to make others happy. His children would say when people heard their last name the next words were, “Are you related to Louie?”
Louie’s mind remained amazing, working crossword puzzles daily in ink at rapid speeds. He insisted his drinks be made the proper ‘old fashioned’ way and that a bartender should dress showing respect for the customer. When he owned Smarjesse’s Supper Club, he worked from 10 am to 4 am the next day, seven days a week—but people loved the professional music, great food and drinks, dancing, and the knowledge they would be safe with the owner always in sight. He remembered exactly what people drank from 50 years back, but maybe not their name.
Louie and his wife, Susan Hummel Smarjesse of Auburn, made it through 50 years of marriage. Susan and Louie spent much of their married life passing each other as Susan worked days teaching music in Riverton and Louie worked mostly nights bartending. The last years, and especially during the pandemic, brought wonderful times together. They traveled to Ireland, Costa Rica, most states, twice enjoyed two-week Barefoot Windjammer sailing cruises in the Caribbean and twice spent weeks on the island of St. John.
His heart was weakened by many heart attacks he didn’t recognize. He didn’t know that diabetic heart attacks could have no pain. In the last three and a half years, he was using a 24/7 infusion pump giving Milrinone to his system. He has the world’s record for surviving while on this drug. We add this just so others may learn from his experience.
Loving him will be three wives, eight children, eighteen grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren. His children Mike Smarjesse [Rhonda], Karen Hitt [Charlie], Patricia Perez [Ramon], Janet Rawlings [John Henrikson], Paul Smarjesse [deceased], Kelly Smarjesse-Miller [Trevor], Anna Neumann [Bob Shaver], and Charly Smarjesse [Nancy Barnick] are so proud of their father. Grandchildren are Nick, Jake, Mike, Matt, Noah, Ben, and Johnny Smarjesse, Reid Hitt, Andy Rawlings, Rachel Hammann, Lindsay Sullivan, Chon Nguyen, Tara Carey, Emme Neumann, Bronte Smarjesse, Hallie Miller, and Ronald Mohan, Jr. [deceased]. He is also survived by his brother, Bob Smarjesse, and his children Tony Smarjesse, Teri Mulvey, and Tami Savage.
Again, please email your memories of Louie and his stories to [email protected]
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: https://www.stjude.org/donate/donate-to-st-jude.html
Special thank you to Rosalie Beck, owner of Gabatoni’s, for furnishing food after the funeral.
At Louie’s request, the funeral is family only, with Staab Funeral Home – Springfield handling arrangements. A memorial will be held at a later date for friends.
Louie will be interred at Camp Butler National Cemetery at 1 PM on Monday, February 22, 2021. The family will acknowledge friends who wish to drive to the burial. Please respect Louie’s wishes and remain in your car.
CDC Protocol shall be followed.
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