My mother, Rita A. Smith, was what one would call a moral compass or perhaps to use a well-worn phrase: “a beacon of light.”
Mom was born in 1953, grew up in Gowensville, and subsequently stayed in the Gowensville-Landrum-Campobello area her whole life. Mom was accustomed to being self-sufficient seeing as she started her first official job (aka federal taxes paid) at 12 years old as a warehouse worker at Ed Perry’s Auto Parts in Gramling. Soon after mom started at Ed Perry’s, she began to drive to work after school and on weekends while evading the local constable, well sort of, as he was a friend of her father, Blake. Thus started the beginning of my mother’s long, productive and illustrious career to which she should be proud of. You see, even at that young age, my mother was a creator of value. Indeed in the most basic sense, mom was making a car payment in the equivalent of today’s dollars of roughly $246.79 a month as a 13 year old. As an anecdote, mom had told me about a specific incident during those years to which she considered one of the worst deeds that she had done. Apparently, instead of going to evening church one Sunday, mom went to Landrum to pick up a friend in order to take a joy ride around the countryside. Murphy’s Law struck when mom was returning from her friend’s house as she proceeded to tear the muffler loose on the car when she came across the Landrum train track crossing on East Rutherford. Well, mom made it home, coasted the car up the driveway with the engine off, and waited for the fallout. The next day my grandfather started the car and an all mighty racket emanated from where the muffler was supposed to be. My grandfather came back into the house hotter than a pepper sprout and told my mother that he had blown the muffler clear off the car when he started it. My mother did not say a word and kept that secret forever. I wish I could say that was one of the worst things I had ever done. You see, I have done much worse in my life even though with every decision, regarding something dubious of course, I always asked myself if my mother would be proud of me if she found out. Let’s just say that I had a magnet next to the compass on too many occasions and the direction to which I should have headed was not followed exactly. Nevertheless, mom’s compass has always been there for me and for many others. In essence, my mother practiced what many religions and philosophies teach on a daily basis: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I like to look at the meaning of the parable with a bit more depth. I will clarify by saying that in every exchange, whether professionally or personally, my mother provided equal or greater value to whom the exchange was with. Not a single family member, friend, colleague, or even acquaintance can deny that my mother provided value to every relationship that was either equal to or greater to the value that the person to whom she was involved with. Therein lies what she was: an intelligent, productive, self-sufficient, and wonderful person to be around who gave value in every manner and with every contact. I know that to a little girl named Tammy, to whom she took as her own at the ripe old age of 15, and to a little boy named Benjie, Saturday mornings that were spent dancing to the Bay City Rollers, Bob Seger, and Rod Stewart which was more than just a bit fun; it was a small microcosm of priceless lessons regarding how we should approach relationships and life. Perhaps we should all reflect, not on her death, but on her life and how we each could be a better, moral compass for those around us. I think she would like that idea.
Rita A. Smith is survived by husband Joe Smith, daughter Tammy Feilmeier, son-in-law John Feilmeier, grandson Blake Feilmeier, son Benjie Smith, daughter-in-law Loreen Smith and grandson Quinn Smith.
Donations are to be made to St Judes Children’s hospital in lieu of flowers. A drop in celebration of life ceremony will be held at the Gowensville Community Center (14186 Highway 11 Campobello SC) on Sunday, September 12th from 2pm-5pm. Come dressed casual and wear blue if you can, as blue was her favorite color.
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