Tuesday, May 30, 2017


A life well-lived, Champ

I have written here before about the influence some special neighbors had on me as a kid-- Bill and Jane Smith. Mrs. Smith died last week at 91, and I know that I am just one of many people who is flooded with memories of her.

She was a lot of things over her long life: a woman in advertising in the 40's and 50's, a businesswoman, a remarkable mom, a dynamic partner to her husband Bill, and a remarkably enthusiastic alumna of William and Mary. To hang out with them was a delight, and singing would often break out. Bill always referred to his wife as "Champ," and he was right.

To me, though, she was something different than all of that. The Smiths lived three doors down from us on Colonial Rd. in Grosse Pointe Shores. As a little kid, for reasons no one quite remembers, I got in the habit of hanging out on their porch. Mrs. Smith would bring me a book, and then another when I was done. After I finished a few, she would bring me an apple. It all seemed very normal at the time, but she later told me she found the whole thing completely amusing-- the kid who would sit down and expect a book to be delivered.

They kept a jar of lemon drops by their front door, and sometimes I would stop by for one on the way home from school (it's unclear whether or not my Mom knew about this). And when I say "school," I'm including high school; at that point I was still stopping by regularly.

Mrs. Smith urged me to apply to William and Mary and I did; and when I decided to go there she was the first person who knew my decision-- even before my parents-- because I had stopped off on the way home for a lemon drop.

Later in life we stayed in touch. They played a role in my inadvertent destruction of the 1984 William and Mary homecoming parade, for example (uh... long story).  Just a few years ago she came to hear me give a sermon at Holy Comforter in Richmond, where the Smiths had moved. It was such an intimidating audience, to have her there!

I'm a lucky man; lucky to have known Jane Smith. Heaven now is blessed with her spirit.

That photo of her says so much. What a wonderful story of her influence and presence in your life.
What sad news. Jane was such a lovely neighbor. And she and Bill also encouraged my parents to look at William & Mary with me. I still have fond memories of visiting the campus in the summer of 1978. Our lives are better having known Jane Smith.
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