TAYLORSVILLE — John Daren "J.D." Smith packed more life into his 32 years than most people do in 90.
The Taylorsville native who died flying a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter in Kuwait last week was remembered in a Monday memorial service as a passionate, funny, driven, life-of-the-party kind of guy who loved climbing, running and flying.
"He had (airplane) models all over his room" as a youth, said Mike Lamoreaux, a good friend. " 'Top Gun' was his favorite movie. All his life he wanted to be a pilot."
But most of all, Smith loved the wife and two young daughters he left behind. He would get up early on Saturdays, go climbing for a few hours, come back and be playing with the kids by the time his wife, Meredith, got up.
Born in Prescott, Ariz., and raised in Taylorsville, Smith joined the Army as a way to get his commercial pilot's license. Stationed in Italy for the past four years, he was called to the Middle East as part of Operation Enduring Freedom where he died along with three other crew members on a training flight. The cause of the crash is being investigated.
Graveside services will be held after Smith's body arrives from the Middle East.
Speaker after speaker at the memorial service told funny stories about Smith: how he put a friend's little brother in the dryer and turned it on to see what would happen (the dryer broke), how he labeled every thing inside his girlfriend's car with tape, how he teased and cajoled and ultimately persuaded friends to climb and run and push themselves while he good-naturedly chided them for their laziness.
He even persuaded two LDS missionaries to join him in a climb near Aviano Air Base, near Padua, Italy. It was not preparation day, the one day per week missionaries are allowed to do such things.
But it turned out all right. Very recently returned from Italy, Adam Archer, one of those missionaries, said the three climbers reached the top in two hours where most people took four — typical of Smith's full-speed-ahead style. While they sat on the peak, Smith was contemplative, watching the early morning light bathe the landscape below.
Archer's reflection: "That hike was one of the greatest experiences of my mission."
LDS Church Bishop Mark Barlow said Smith's death was part of a divine plan.
"Heavenly Father must have a great need for Daren," he said.