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'He gave the downtrodden a chance' | Murdered bar owner's legacy lives on in those he helped

If you ask those who knew him, Wayne Smith was more than just a Bogalusa bar owner. He was a community pillar that found a second family at The Pub Lounge.

BOGALUSA, La. — For years, Wayne Smith sat in the same spot every night at the Pub Lounge drinking the same drink – half-a-shot of Crown Royal and coke.

He didn’t say much, but when he did, people listened.

“If he spoke, it was something important or really funny,” Misti McElveen said. “He was a really quiet man, but he was so complex.”

McElveen knew Wayne since she was 18. She worked at the Pub Lounge on and off for 14 years, battling addiction and homelessness during some of that time.

Now, she’s eight years sober and says she owes that to Smith.

“He made a point to let us know and to let me know that he was standing beside me,” she said. “He saw my pain, he loved me and he was there for me. And he was that for a lot of us.”

Wayne Smith’s life was tragically taken inside the bar that became a home for so many. Police say 51-year-old David Rester killed him inside the Pub Lounge on Thursday, March 3. He was arrested the next day after a high-speed chase in Mississippi.

“To see him taken so violently -- that’s hard for all of us because that’s not how he lived his life at all,” McElveen said. “He lived his life for love and he spread love all through Bogalusa.”

Under Smith’s ownership, the Pub Lounge became more than just a bar. It was a place for second chances and even Christmas miracles.

“There was a time through my struggles where I was homeless and it was Christmas and me and my son had Santa Clause show up at the Pub on the stage with a Christmas tree and Christmas presents for my 5-year-old son,” McElveen said. “Wayne knew that I couldn’t do anything that year and he wasn’t going to let my son go without.”

Wayne always made a point of hiring and helping people that society left behind. McElveen said he helped the homeless find shelter, helped addicts get clean and gave people fresh out of prison a second chance.

“He surrounded himself with misfits,” she said. “But it was the misfits that he saw potential in. He was just really good to everybody.”

It’s hard to say how many people Smith helped in his life, but through them he leaves behind a legacy of love, generosity and the idea that maybe we should all be a little more like Wayne Smith.

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