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Memento of late DKE president Courtland Smith missing from frat house

After his death, Courtland Smith’s parents donated his beloved kayak paddle to Delta Kappa Epsilon so the fraternity would have something to remember him by — and now that treasured item has gone missing from the fraternity house.

When Smith lived in the Delta Kappa Epsilon house on Columbia Street, he always had his kayak propped against a door somewhere in the house.

Smith, former president of the fraternity, was shot to death near Greensboro by police in August 2009, according to the State Bureau of Investigation.

“We want to stress that it means a lot to everyone here — his parents come back to the fraternity house and the pledge brothers,” said the current fraternity president Ward Wood.

“We don’t want to get mad at anybody and we just want to get it back because it means so much to us.”

Members of the fraternity aren’t sure when the paddle — which has two blue paddle heads and a black handle with Smith’s name and phone number — disappeared from the home. Wood said the paddle was mounted to the wall on a plaque about ten feet off the ground.

“It would have been extremely hard for anybody to get up there,” Wood said. “It had to have happened in the past couple of days.”

Elwyn Bridges, a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the vice president of finance for the Inter-Fraternity Council, said he remembers a time last year when the house was getting painted and a painter accidentally splashed some paint on the plaque.

He said the members of the fraternity immediately took the paddle off the wall and scrubbed it clean.

“It’s not necessarily like it’s a shrine,” Bridges said. “But there’s no animosity, no punishment, no reciprocation. If it somehow gets back, it would mean a lot to everybody.”

House manager Meg Miller has worked with the fraternity for almost 20 years, and she said she and Smith were particularly close.

“I think it must have happened (Wednesday) night,” Miller said. “Because I look at that thing everyday, sometimes I talk to it.”

Miller said Smith’s family often visits the fraternity for the group’s annual Habitat for Humanity home build in Smith’s honor.

She said the fraternity hopes to have the paddle back before the build — which is slated to happen in just a few weeks.

“I’m devastated,” Miller said. “I can’t believe someone knew what they were stealing when they stole it.”

Anyone with information about the missing kayak paddle should contact Wall.

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