Milan Dale Smith, 68, the former president of the Washington Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a pioneer in the frozen food industry and a former president and chief executive officer of the National Canners Association, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 20 at a hospital in Mesa, Ariz.
Mr. Smith served as executive assistant to Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson during the Eisenhower administration. Before that he was president of a family business in the Pacific Northwest, Smith Canning & Freezing Co., and in that capacity he was among the first to develop the freezing process as a means of preserving fresh fruits and vegetables during World War II.
He was president of the Washington Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1957 to 1971. In that role he was both chief administrator and high priest for Mormon Church units in Washington, Northern Virginia, Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. He also served as chairman of the committee that purchased the property and oversaw construction of the Mormon Temple near the Capital Beltway in Kensington.
A native of Clearfield, Utah, where his father had operated a canning company, Mr. Smith attended the University of Utah for two years, then spent a year on the East Coast as a missionary for the Mormon Church.
In the early 1940s he moved to Pendleton, Ore., where he borrowed $150,000 to purchase a freezing tunnel and open a factory to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables. Initially he concentrated on peas, and he took great pride in the fact that his organization could get peas from the fields to the freezer in two to three hours.
Later he opened food-freezing factories in Milton-Freewater, Ore., and Lewiston, Idaho.
In 1954, Mr. Smith came to Washington as Benson's executive assistant, served three years at the Department of Agriculture, then resigned to direct Mormon Church affairs here and resume the presidency of his food-freezing business, using Washington as his base.
In 1960, he became president of the National Canners Association, now the National Food Processors Association. In that position he directed a variety of liaison and lobbying activities with Congress and federal agencies.
Mr. Smith left that job in 1971, then spent three years in London as director of a Mormon missionary program. He returned here in 1975 for about five months, then moved to Mesa because of ill health.
A former resident of Chevy Chase, Mr. Smith had been a vice president of the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts.
Survivors include his wife, Jessica Udall Smith of Mesa; five sons, Milan D. Smith Jr. of Los Angeles, Gregory Udall Smith of Gilbert, Ariz., Nicholas A. Smith of Milton-Freewater, Michael J. Smith of Mesa, and Gordon H. Smith of Pendleton; five daughters, Melanie Jones Sturdevant and Charlotte Miller, both of Mesa, Kathleen Daniels of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Lisa Perkes of Pendleton, and Jessica Ann Smith of Rockville; 41 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.