Country music lost a legendary performer Monday, when 96-year-old Doc Williams
died at his home in Wheeling.
Born Andrew John Smik in Cleveland, Ohio, "Doc" came to Wheeling in 1937 to perform
with Jamboree USA and to participate in WWVA broadcasts. His daughter, Barbara "Peeper" Smik, said
her father and mother, the late "Chickie Williams," always felt at home in the Friendly City.
"He always considered Wheeling and West Virginia his home," she said. "He had opportunities to
go elsewhere, but Mom was born in West Virginia, and they always wanted to come back here to
their roots. We (the couple's three children) grew up in a settled way."
And Wheeling embraced Doc and his family. Since he and Chickie performed frequently with
their three daughters - Barbara, Madeline and Karen - on stage, the entire family was well-known
among country music fans throughout the northeastern United States and Canada and by local residents.
Today their grandson, Andy McKenzie, is mayor of Wheeling.
"I was very close to my grandfather, and he was a great man," McKenzie said, noting Doc would have
turned 97 in June.
The mayor's mother, Karen "Punkin" McKenzie, said although the family is saddened by losing Doc,
they believe he has gone to a better place.
"He also was a believer, so he just went to join our mother," she said.
Doc was an active participant in Jamboree shows from 1937 to 2003, but he began his career playing acoustic
guitar at square dances in small Pennsylvania towns. After playing at different venues throughout Wheeling,
Doc and the Jamboree made the Capitol Theatre their permanent home in the late 1960s.
After the Capitol closed, Doc supported the efforts to reopen the venue. He took part in a ceremony
in April 2009 in which keys to the theater were handed over to the Wheeling Convention and Visitors
Bureau, followed by a grand reopening in September of that year.
Doc and Chickie Williams were inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in
November 2009. The couple also was honored by having a stretch of Interstate 70 named
for them - the "Doc and Chickie Williams Highway" designation near Wheeling Hospital
pays tribute to the "Country Music Royal Couple."
According to Karen, Doc had been in poor health in recent weeks - something she noted was especially
difficult for "a man that was as vibrant as my Dad."
Barbara said the family is planning a Christian service for Saturday with arrangements pending at
Kepner Funeral Home in Elm Grove. But she noted family will also remember Chickie at the same time.
"Dad always said that, 'If you ever pay tribute to me, be sure to include your
mother,' so we promised him that," she said.
She also said the family would like to thank the Wheeling Newspapers and other media in the
local area, as well as the Ohio Valley's residents.
"They've always been so kind with their articles throughout years," she said of the media. "The community
has really embraced Mom and Dad, but they always allowed us our privacy."
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