GERALDINE (GERRI) ELAINE SMITH NOVEMBER 18, 1940 – JULY 28, 2013 Beloved wife, mother, grandma and great grandma passed away having battled four years with ovarian cancer. She was born in San Bernardino, CA to James and Nita Montgomery. Gerri made Borden Springs, AL, her home the past 19 years enjoying her dream of being a country gal. Gerri is survived by her loving husband of 19 years, Melvin (Mel) L. Smith; one brother-Douglas Montgomery; four children-Rick York (wife Emmy), Debborah Harper (husband Jerry), Vicki Nakayama (husband Dean), Kimberlee Hixson (husband Dave); 9 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. She also has 2 stepsons, 2 stepdaughters, numerous step grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Gerri loved to share stories about her childhood and while life was not always easy there was always an abundance of love. She had 2 brothers (Douglas and Daniel) and 2 sisters (Betty and Janice). One of her favorite stories was how her dad turned a truck into a motor home to bring the family to San Bernardino from Northern California. There was also a story in the newspaper where she had written to a radio host “Okie Bob” and told him she and her sisters wanted dolls for Christmas. The story was so adorable that he came out with reporters and brought them dolls and published the story. She spoke of saddle oxford shoes, riding bikes and climbing trees. She was a real “daddy’s girl”. Her dad called her his Irish Rose and sang Wild Irish Rose to her. She would tell how she loved to watch him do the Irish Jig. Her funniest story was about a chicken that had entered the house and got under her bed. She heard a noise and got brave enough to look to see what it was only to find a pair of eyes looking back at her.
She met Mary Alice, a childhood friend just prior to 7th grade and remained friends throughout their lives. They both knew shorthand and used that secret method to exchange notes. There was never a dull moment or lack of words with these two. They enjoyed going down to the wash in their swim suits, roller skating and just hanging out. In 2011, Gerri visited California. Mary Alice came to visit her at Gerri’s daughter’s house. They had trouble with the alarm and set it off. As the alarm was blasting both were panic-stricken, worried the cops were going to come and take them away for breaking in.
Gerri had many friends both in California and Alabama. She and her friend Diane (in their 30 something days) were the modern day Laverne and Shirley. Charlene and Buddy Johnson were also like family and very dear friends of many years. Just before she passed she and Charlene talked about a fishing trip they had taken where Gerri’s son Rick caught a fish by the eye. However it was done, he caught his first fish! Her Bear Hugger circle and very close friends included Helen Guttram, Judy Lyle, Gayle Bishop and Bunny McGee. Steel Magnolias: Lenora Johnson and Margaret Taylor and the list goes on… She made friends everywhere she went, even at her chemo sessions. She would come in, bring goodies and gifts for the staff and patients and always tried to lift the spirits of the other chemo patients. Smiles were very important to mom. She said a smile is free, can brighten someone’s day but when you give it away it seems to always comes back. Smiles warmed her heart because it showed joy.
Gerri had a keen sense of when her children were in danger. Gerri’s daughter Vicki and her husband Dean nearly got arrested fixing a car dent for her in a back alley. The cops came out and Gerri had to rescue them. Dean always took care of her cars for her until she moved to Alabama. Another time her daughters Debi and Vicki went out jogging near a new housing construction area, she just had that feeling so she jumped in her car and went searching which was a good thing because they were being harassed by some guys in a van. Whew! Mom to the rescue again. These are just a few of what is probably hundreds of examples. Thanks Mom…
She had a great sense of humor always making people laugh. She said, “What have you got if you lose your sense of humor?” It never mattered what she was going through, she kept her sense of humor. She even went as far as telling her son Rick that his sister Kim is Batman. She enjoyed playing dominoes with her husband Mel every morning to include throwing them at him when things didn’t go her way. She wrote about it saying “Dominoes is war time. Winning is everything! Who cares about how you play the game? You’ve gotta win, and that’s that.” The Thursday before she passed she started early in the morning with making the hospice nurse laugh when we asked Mom if she had any questions. She replied, “I am the one who’s tired and they want me to remember?” Her daughters Vicki and Debi took her on a short road trip that day to Oak Glen just to get her out of the house. She had them laughing from the moment they started until they returned. She saw some deer and alpacas up close, old farm equipment, a clock on a lamp post along the road and fully enjoyed the beauty of all her surroundings. When she returned her son Rick and wife Emmy were at the house and she started them laughing. She later requested and enjoyed a fashion show of her daughter’s new work clothes. It was a busy day but she pushed forward as she always had. As she prepared for her new journey she developed a smile on her face so tight that it was near impossible to give her pain medicine. She said she was going to pass with a smile on her face and she worked very hard for it and was not about to let someone mess it up giving her medicine.
Gerri was a devoted Christian and had a passion for people. After retirement she was a founding member of the “Tuesday Bear Huggers” sewing comfort items for cancer patients, volunteer firefighter, newspaper columnist and anything else she could volunteer for. She was a gifted poet and writer and loved all types of crafts.
Gerri Smith was a truly amazing woman. Her son-in-law Jerry set Debi’s cell ringtone for mom as Wonder Woman because she truly was just that. She always was one to inspire people and give what she called “unsolicited advice” to her family to make sure we continued to receive her guidance. She was not only a cherished wife, mom, grandma and great grandma; she was a best friend.
A celebration of her life will be held at Emmerson Bartlett Mortuary, 703 Brookside Ave. Redlands, CA 92373. Visitation: Friday, August 2, 2013 5:00pm-8:00pm. Services: Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 11:00am with reception to follow. Burial will be private.