Smith family shares Charlie Smith’s Notre Dame fan cave
WARSAW, Ind. -- One local family will be cheering on the Irish from their Notre Dame fan cave. It’s a place that has become not only a family retreat, but a sanctuary. Their fan cave honors and celebrates the lives of two Notre Dame fans who are always in their hearts.
The Smith family fan cave is a little different than most.
This one is an airplane hangar at the Warsaw Airport.
Charles Smith created the home away from home for his passions in life family, planes and Notre Dame football.
“We are die hard Irish fans. I think we bleed green,” Michelle Smith LeDrew said.
Charlie shared his love of planes and the Irish with his family and friends.
Both of his sons Scott and Ryan also became pilots and the smiths traveled the country to cheer on the Irish.
From New York city to Ireland, the Smiths almost never missed a game.
The hangar became a spot to share old memories and make new ones.
“It was almost like a second home,” Bryce LeDrew said.
But on October 2, 2015 Charlie, Scott and two friends were on their way to Clemson, South Carolina when the plane they were flying crashed.
“They were en route to the Notre Dame vs Clemson game. So, that was a call, as you can imagine, you never think you’re going to get and it’s still, it’s still hard for me to say the words but yeah, I found out that I lost my brother and my dad in a plane crash. It’s been tough,” Smith LeDrew said.
They were just one mile from the airport. just a 5 minute drive from Clemson University’s campus.
It has been five years since the crash, but the pain of losing them will never go away.
“We’ve tried to honor them by not giving up and by doing the things that they did so well and that’s again, loving people and bringing the community together. You know, giving your best and living with purpose and intensity. So, that’s what we’ve tried to do,” Smith LeDrew said.
The hangar has been preserved just the way Charlie left it.
“It’s different. Obviously, there’s a soul in here that’s missing and should be here but it’s special that we still have this place and we can enjoy it and use how we did when he was around,” Bryce, Smith LeDrew’s son, said.
While Notre Dame game days will never be the same Smith LeDrew will always have a piece of her dad and brother nearby.
Charlie’s youngest son Ryan is a commercial pilot and has a hangar right next door.