Through her compassionate heart and generous spirit, Elois Smith touched all who were within her reach in such a beautiful way. She was the sort of person who was never concerned with what she had, rather, her life’s mission was focused on what she could give to those around her while expecting nothing in return. Blessed to spend many years with the love of her life Alfred, Elois was filled with unspeakable joy to witness her family tree blossom to include the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she adored. Even though life was not always easy, she was a woman of grace whose unwavering faith carried her when the storms of life loomed overhead. Life will never be the same without Elois here, but her timeless legacy that is deeply rooted in faith, dedication to family, and unconditional love to all will be proudly carried on by those who follow her.
The 1930s brought us some of the most trying days we have faced as a nation as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs became scarce, which drove the unemployment rate over 25 percent leaving cities, communities, and families to do whatever they could to survive. Despite the harsh reality around them, a young couple from Kankakee, Illinois, was able to shift their focus to an exciting time in their lives with the birth of a healthy baby girl on June 22, 1930. Elois A. was one of ten children born to her parents, Artie and Marie Hazel Meier-Mills, and was raised in the family home alongside her siblings, Joseph, Margaret, Audrey, Jeanette, Elizabeth, Tom, Ruth, Eleanor, and Jacquelin. Her father worked as a janitor at St. Patrick’s High School and later worked for the Joliet Arsenal while her mother had more than enough to keep her busy at home.
During her earliest years Elois and her family lived in Kankakee, but they later moved to a home her father built on Armour Road in Bourbonnais. She was a student at local schools including St. Patrick’s High School in Kankakee where she played basketball and the French horn in the band. In addition to holding down her studies as a high school student, Elois worked at Sherb’s Ice Cream Parlor. After graduating from high school she attended a business trade school where she learned the trade of bookkeeping.
Not to be forgotten during her years after high school was Elois’ introduction to the young man of her dreams. His name was Alfred Calvin Smith, and they were introduced by a family friend, Lee Durell. He was seven years her senior, but both Elois and Alfred were smitten right from the start. Deeply in love, the sweethearts were married on November 8, 1952, in Maternity BVM Catholic Church in Bourbonnais. The newlyweds soon moved to Wesley Township where they started their family 11 months later with the birth of their son, Edwin. In 1956 they built the home in which they raised their family that grew to include five children in addition to Edwin: James, Michael, Teresa, John, and Robert. This was the place that Elois called home until she recently needed more care.
Elois stayed at home to raise her children until 1968 when she took a job with Hogard Business Services and later at the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. Finally, Elois worked for the Security Administration until retiring.
The Smith family was always a bustle of activity. They raised chickens and had laying hens on the farm. Elois was known as the “Egg Lady” who delivered farm fresh eggs to the local stores and area residents. After learning to make candy from Teresa Kebart, she became known for her candy and also for her cake decorating skills. Elois made candy as a fundraiser for her Catholic parish school for various years during the Christmas season. She was also a 4-H leader who was instrumental in establishing candy making as a 4-H project in Will County. Because of their family interests, their vacations were spent traveling to fairs so the kids could show their animals. Elois also showed her homemade candy and donuts. She also made homemade baked beans and various other sweet and savory foods for the 4-H. Banana cakes, banana cream pies, and coffee cakes were among the treats her family loved most for Christmas and Easter. Of course Elois never measured a thing.
There were numerous things that enriched Elois' journey through the years. She was a member of Saint Rose Catholic Church in Wilmington where she was active with the Council of Catholic Women and cherished a wonderful friendship with Sr. Ann Ellen Quirk, BVM. With a heart that beat to serve others, Elois, along with her sisters and mother, provided for a meal and at least one gift for everyone in a large family at Christmas during her younger years. This continued throughout her life as she always welcomed anyone into her home during the holidays so they wouldn’t be alone. After retirement Elois and Alfred enjoyed fishing and made memorable trips to Wisconsin and the Ozarks.
With unending love for others, Elois Smith exemplified what it means to be the hands and feet of her Heavenly Father. It was easy to see that she treasured her family and that her children and grandchildren were her greatest source of pride and joy. Elois will be deeply missed but never forgotten.
Elois A. Smith, of Wilmington, died on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Elois’ family includes her children: Edwin Smith of Bourbonnais, James (Dawn) Smith of Wilmington, Michael (Jill) Smith of Crescent City, Teresa Brandon of Wilmington, John (Wendy) Smith of Wilmington and Robert Smith of Joliet; (15) grandchildren: Erica (Jason) Bess, Ben (Deanna) Smith, Kim Smith, Nicole (Ryan) Nagel, Kylie Smith, Keith Smith, Maressa Smith, Klinton Smith, Matthew Brandon, Angela Brandon, Callie Smith, Calvin Smith, Katie Smith, Jake Smith and Jacqui Smith; (7) great-grandchildren: Mariah, Tyler, Austin, Tristen, Aubree, Logan and Ashlynn; three sisters and one brother: Elizabeth Arseneau of Bourbonnais, Tom (Shirley) Mills of Florida, Ruth (Len) Solecki of Colorado, Eleanor (Jim) Morris of California and Jacquelin (Dick) Bickerstaff of Wheaton; brothers and sisters-in-law: Joyce Mills of California, Elsie Senesac of Arlington Heights, Leolia Hecko of Chicago and Dorothy Smith of Wilmington and numerous nieces and nephews, including Rob Hecko of Chicago, who was like a son to Elois, as well as a host of friends, especially Sr. Ann Ellen Quirk, BVM.
Elois was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Alfred on December 28, 2003; brother. Joseph Mills; sisters: Margaret Mills, Audrey (Don) Kendregan, Jeannette (Herman) Pelletier, and Lee Durrell, who was like a sister; son-in-law, Darrell “Butch” Brandon (2011); daughter-in-law, Linda Smith (2012); and best friend, Teresa Kebart.
Visitation and video tribute will be held on Friday, March 7, 2014, from 4-8 p.m. at Baskerville Funeral Home, 700 East Kahler Road in Wilmington. Funeral services will follow Saturday morning March 8th at 10:00 a.m. in Saint Rose Catholic Church, 604 South Kankakee Street in Wilmington, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated with Reverend Steve Bondi officiating. Burial will be in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Wilmington, where Elois will be laid to rest with her husband Alfred.
Pallbearers will be: Ben Smith, Keith Smith, Calvin Smith, Jake Smith, Matt Brandon and Klinton Smith.
Preferred memorials may be made as gifts in Elois’ memory to Kuzma Care Cottage, 635 South Main Street, Wilmington, Illinois 60481.
Friends may sign the online guest book or send private condolences to the family by logging onto: www.BaskervilleFuneral.com.
Funeral services and arrangements have been made under the direction and care of Baskerville Funeral Home in Wilmington. (815/476-2181)