Tuesday, February 16, 2016

In Memory of Susan H. Smith, my mother

Hello friends,

My beloved Mom, Susan, passed away last Saturday. To have to write those words still seems surreal. She was so much more than a mother to me, she was my confidante and friend, my inspiration in every facet of life. She was the coolest person, one who totally played down her coolness. Which of course made her even cooler. She was brilliant, curious, and wise — she could have had a huge career as an artist, or a creative director, magazine editor, run a company or run for public office — but she wanted to be home with her family and her loving husband, guiding us, celebrating us, supporting us. She seemed to really enjoy it. Mom mastered living like nobody’s business.

We thank you so much for your beautiful cards and emails, for the outpouring of love and prayers as she was going through her fight with breast cancer that had come back and spread. My mom fought so, so hard. She was strong, and also very spiritual. Like I said, it still seems surreal, as we’d all been so hopeful she would have more time. But her health started deteriorating rather quickly, and the night she died, she was in her “healing sanctuary” at home, surrounded by family, her husband Steve, who has been Mom’s constant caretaker and devoted love, son Andy, Doug and me, and our four children. The kids sat on the bed around her, playing guitar and singing. We held her hand and filled her ears with loving, peaceful words. We loved her so much.

I wanted to share the obituary I wrote, as many of you have mentioned to me that you feel you’ve gotten to know “Mama Susan” through my posts the last few years. I really wish you could have met her. She would have given you a tour of the garden, and probably tried to send you home with a bouquet of whatever flowers you had admired.


Susan Heard Smith

Our darling, our muse. Giver of boundless love, life, encouragement, inspiration, art, and beauty. Susan Smith passed away on Feb. 6, at home in Kirkwood, from metastasized breast cancer. She was 71. Her effervescent personality was uplifting to be around, and she drew in friends, family, neighbors, and perfect strangers with her generosity and joyfulness, her gorgeous laugh, bubbly spirit, quick wit, and genuine warmth. Of course, if she were here now, Susan would play down these compliments, instead elaborating on how wonderful YOU are. She was unlike any other, our Susan, and she leaves behind countless people whose lives she impacted, and will miss her deeply.

Susan Heard Smith was born in Dyersburg, Tennessee in 1944 to Bonnie Spain and Donald Tibbs Heard. Her family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when she was a toddler. Growing up, she was creative and can-do, active in school social clubs like Tri-B and Damsels, putting on school dances, and making many lifelong friends. She often retold, with a laugh, how she got a report card noting that “Susan talks too much and does not respect authority.” It was adopted as a sort of unofficial motto, as she was quite passionate and confident about her views. While bebopping and sock-hopping (she was likened to the girl in the song, “Chantilly Lace and a pretty face, and a ponytail hanging down”), Susan graduated with honors from Will Rogers High School in 1962. As a fine art major at University of Tulsa, she was active in Delta Gamma sorority, president of the Panhellenic Council, and a member of the Mortar Board honor society among many other accolades. There she met Drew Spanogle, and the two were married after graduation in 1966. They moved to Kansas City, where Susan had been offered a job as an illustrator for Hallmark Cards, then a few years later to Pittsburg, Kansas, where Susan got a master’s degree in painting from Pittsburg State University. It was in a tiny studio/boutique behind their home that Susan began making and painting intricate dough ornaments for her business, “Flour Child”. She sold her personalized creations to department stores and at art bazaars, gathering a dedicated following.

All her life, she had a desire to “make pretty,” she simply loved to decorate, arrange, and surround herself with rare and interesting things. After moving to a mid-19th century home in Kirkwood in 1971, she feathered her nest with the most beautiful and fanciful hand-screened wallpapers, heirloom furniture nabbed at country auctions, antiques found during trips to Europe or little shops around town. Her own abstract expressionistic paintings hung alongside framed tempera artwork by her two children, Marcella and Andrew. She used her mother’s quilts as tablecloths at family gatherings, lacquered tables in high gloss paint, covered flocked Christmas trees with vintage glass ornaments and beads. She was without a drop of pretense or formality. Her style was as vibrant and memorable as she was, layered with pattern, color, art, and delightful details. It was no surprise that Susan’s home (and later, magnificent garden) was featured in house tours, newspaper articles, TV segments, and magazines both local and national.

In 1982, Susan married her Prince Charming and the love of her life, Steve Smith, an aerospace engineer and artist himself. They were a dream team. A couple who adored each other completely, complemented one another perfectly, always side by side, often kissing, hugging, and personifying a loving marriage. Together, they reimagined their interior and exterior surroundings, creating a wonderland of plants, cockatiels, wirehair fox terriers, and inspiring spaces, including Susan’s hand-lettered sentiment over the fireplace, “Fairy tales do come true.” Their garden, with its winding brick pathways, waterfalls, and Steve’s zenlike treehouse, became a showplace for countless varieties of irises, daffodils, tree peonies, magnolias, and exotic plants that overwintered in their greenhouse. Susan hand-painted garden tags for many of the plants in her elegant script, and tended to each little plant as if it were the most important one in the world.

Was there anything Susan couldn’t do? Be it ice skating or ballet; the most challenging New York Times crosswords or bridge with dear friends; debates on politics, economics, religion, philosophy; powering through tennis rallies or dancing in Christian Louboutin stilettos to Motown’s greatest hits, she grabbed life with total gusto. She stitched intricate needlepoint pillows. Saut√©ed gourmet meals with love. Wrapped packages for gift occasions with supreme attention to beauty and detail. You could not throw away one of her cards or hand-written notes! Every word was so carefully chosen and unusually rhymed, and would suit its recipient to a tee. Susan was a writer, stylist, and story producer, contributing to many articles for Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion magazine. A member of the Rowena Clarke Garden Club, she hosted beautiful luncheons and really got a kick out of sharing the love of plants and gardening know-how with this fine group of ladies. Susan and Steve enjoyed walking their dogs, Kip and Bonnie, all through their neighborhood, stopping to talk to friends and neighbors along the way.

Susan is survived by her husband, Steven P. Smith; her children, Marcella Spanogle Hawley (Doug Scronce), and Andrew Spanogle; step-children Melissa Cook and Amanda Kreider (Tim); grandchildren Lulu and Finn Hawley, Chloe Cook, Sylvia and Clara Scronce; brother Donald T. Heard Jr. (Joan); nieces Pam Sawatski (Bill), Bonnie Marquez, and Elizabeth Moran; and her mother-in-law, Jean Smith. The memory of Susan’s radiant smile and loving nature lives on in the hearts of all she touched. A celebration of her life will take place at home, when the garden is in full bloom later this year. Family will provide notice. Contributions in Susan’s name may be made to World Vision, or to the charity of your choice.

51 comments:

  1. Beautiful, Marcy! A most captivating picture of your mom in her garden. Since I first "met" her, Susan has been an inspiration to me in so many ways. She was truly exemplary. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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    1. Leslie, thank you so very much. You have sent such loving words to me these last many weeks and months, and I have wrapped myself up in them. I love to hear that she inspired you from afar. That is a thought I will keep with me. xoxo

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  2. Sending heartfelt sympathy and love. I can see so much of your mother in you, dear Marcy. ♡ Your mom truly lived her entire life in full bloom! I think you will always feel her close by, especially when you are in the garden or walking in nature. Your plans for a celebration of her life sound so lovely. So many hugs!♡♡

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    1. What a sweet note, Dawn, thank you, thank you! I hope I’m worthy of her, she was pretty amazing. I sure do feel like she’s near me with her sparkling spirit, even now. xoxo Hugs back to you.

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  3. Oh Marcy, this is so beautifully written that the reader feels that they know how amazing and special your Mom was and also see her zest for life is also in you. What an incredible woman and how blessed you were to have such an amazing Mom and I'm sure her light will continue to shine through her family. I'm so very sorry for your loss, big hugs to you Marcy.

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  4. beautiful lady and obit. I'm so sorry for your loss. I just lost my sister, my best friend a couple of weeks ago so I can empathize. Take care!!!!

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  5. My heart is heavy with the news of your mother's passing. She sure was a beautiful lady. Your obit was wonderful, she sounds like a person I would have liked to known. I offer you my Deepest Sympathy and also to your family. Mary L Schreiber

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  6. Oh, dear and precious Marcy! What a most beautiful post - one that your dear mom would have protested, I'm sure. But you are her beloved daughter for sure and have her artistic gifts in words and in your artistry, along with such a love for life! My heart was broken at the news, and I continue to pray for you all and know that God will continue to give you strength for each day (and at times each moment). What a blessing to have had such a wonderful family and her Prince Charming in Steve. Please tell him I am praying for him as well, as I know the deep sorrow of a home less his beloved. I know the celebration of her life when the garden is in full bloom will be a joyous and tearful occasion but one that would so please her. What an amazing woman and life! Big hugs and much love to you, Marcy!

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  7. Sweet, sweet Marcella...my heart breaks at your loss. Your mother was an awesome woman, I can tell, because she raised an awesome daughter! I really enjoyed reading about Mama Susan and I am sorry I never had the pleasure of meeting her. You have done her more than proud with your obituary. Her spirit, her joie de vivre and her love of family shine brightly through your words. Your plans for the celebration of her life are perfect and I know it will be magnificent with her garden in full bloom. I will continue to lift you and your sweet family in prayer. Sending you hugs and love...

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  8. Marcella,
    I am so sorry to hear that your mom has passed. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this time, and your beautiful words make me feel your loss and the loveliness of her spirit. This spirit will truly live on in you and your family and all your wonderful memories. What a blessing you have given to her through your stunning artwork and surrounding her with flowers always in bloom! I am sure you brought her so much happiness! God bless you and your family.

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  9. Marcella, so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like such an amazing woman. Lots of prayers!

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  10. Marcella,
    So sorry for your loss, I loved hearing about your mom and how she was an amazing inspiration she was to you. She sounded like someone you would want to know. My prayers are with you and your family, and so glad that you have such wonderful memories at this sad time.

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  11. So very sorry to hear about your mom Marcella! I pray that your heart will be full of peace and the special treasure of memories you have you can hold close to comfort you. She obviously was an amazing Lady!Her love for life and talent is a gift for you to carry on and pass to your babies :) I do have to say you certainly have some of her talent as your stamps are beautiful! I love flowers and your creations are always exciting

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  12. Marcella, I'm so sorry to hear your mama has passed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Such a lovely piece you have written for her. I know she is watching over you.
    Http://paulettesprettypapercrafts.worspress.com
    Since Google keeps my frozen blogger profile with closed email address attached to my account even with my blog moved to WP 2012.

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  13. Marcella-I am new to your blog, but can tell I definitely missed out on all of those Mama Smith stories. I read your amazingly beautiful tribute to this splendid woman who obviously blessed everyone she met and I cried! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Cherish every memory!

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  14. Oh Marcy, what a really beautiful picture of your sweet Mama Susan. How very fortunate you were to have such a person as her as your mama. You have written about her before and I always thought she sounded like someone I would have wanted to know and after reading your heartfelt tribute to her, I am sure of it. Know that she is forever now watching over you and your family with a smile on her face I feel certain.
    Hugs, Melanie

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  15. Marcella, I'm so sorry to hear the passing of your Mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Your tribute to your Mom is so beautiful, she sounded like quite an amazing woman. You have some wonderful memories to cherish. Take care,

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  16. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. You are quite like your wonderful mama. I am so glad you've had her all these years, glad you have the happy memories and glad you are able to grieve and grieve well.

    Praying for you, Marcy, as you go forward as brightly as your mother did. Sending warm hugs and love. I know how hard it is to say goodbye to a mother who is so much more than a mom, but a best friend and mentor as well.

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  17. This is so moving. I have no words.

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  18. Oh Marce! How beautifully written! I truly wish I would have had a chance to meet your mother in person. I know I would be a better person for it. However, I feel like she lives on in you, because the very things you wrote about her describe you too. You are a beautiful reflection of her and her spirit. I am so sorry for your loss. A woman as vibrant as your mother, definitely leaves a void when she is no longer on this earth. I pray that you find peace in knowing that she isn't suffering, and that you are surrounded by love and joy from your family and friends!! Hugs dear Marcy!!!

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  19. What a wonderful gift the world has lost in the passing of your dear, sweet mother! Thank you for sharing her spirit with us. I, like many others, wish I had the opportunity to meet this wonderful force of nature. I have a sneaking suspicion that you are a lot like her and so she does live on in you and your children. A celebration of her life while the garden is in full bloom sounds like a perfect tribute to a wonderful woman. Thank you for sharing during this most difficult of times. I wish you and your family peace and comfort as you move forward. Gentle hugs!

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  20. Our thoughts, and prayers, go out to you and your Family. Your Obiturary is just so beautiful and so touching. Your Mom raised you, and taught you, such kindness and enthusiasm that you outwardly show it in a time of great sorrow and sadness. How touching, and so movingly beautiful, that your next Polymer Set features Magnolia's. Your Mom's favorite Blooming Tree and your photographs of her, and her garden, have taken my breath away. Your Mom is so proud of you! What an amazing women you are!!

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  21. So sorry for your loss, wow what wonderful words to wrap up her life and all that she did and gave to others, and her you are carrying on those things that she passed down to you, a blessed life!

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  22. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I'm so thankful she met the love of her life. She is a fascinating, loving woman and I would have loved to have known her. I see where you got your amazing talent! Just remember she lives on...not only in the hearts of all who know her but in the delight she is giving others whom she's with on the other side. What beautiful gardens and friendships she is creating even now...
    So thankful you have such wonderful memories and that families can be together forever.

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  23. Sending my deepest condolences and my warm memories of your Mom always fill your heart.

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  24. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. She has certainly left her mark here on this earth, and you carry that mark even further with your artwork. Many prayers heading your family's way.

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  25. Marcela, this is a beautiful, beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. Of course I've never met your Mom, but I have been following your blog for some time, and have seen the beautiful pictures of her. I get the feeling that all of her beauty has definitely rubbed off on you and your lovely family. I am so deeply sorry for your loss, and send my prayers and love to you all.

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  26. Marcela, this is a beautiful, beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. Of course I've never met your Mom, but I have been following your blog for some time, and have seen the beautiful pictures of her. I get the feeling that all of her beauty has definitely rubbed off on you and your lovely family. I am so deeply sorry for your loss, and send my prayers and love to you all.

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  27. That was just a beautiful remembrance and I hope I can put together something so amazing for my own mom someday. Cancer really sucks and I'm sorry about that Marcella. I'm so glad you got the time you had with your mom and thanks for sharing her with us too.

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  28. Oh my , I so wish I could have met your AMAZING Mama Susan! You penned the perfect obituary. It is clear that many of her talents will live on in you. May all those wonderful memories ease you loss and keep you warm. Sending heartfelt Sympathy and big hugs....

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  29. I am so sorry for the passing of your mother. Your tribute was truly beautiful & expressed your love for her so well. Please know that others have been where you are & are praying for your comfort & peace.

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  30. Dearest Marcella: I'm so very sorry for the loss of your mom, your remembrance of her was touching and beautiful, written from your heart and reflecting the love you have for her. She was a wonderful woman and the prof of that is you, she lives in you and will live in your children too. I'm so happy she instilled in you the love of nature and family because you have shared this love with all of us who have follow you through your amazing images. I wish I could reach to you with open arms and hug you but since I can't, I will send my love and support and heartfelt Sympathy to you and your family in this lines.

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  31. Marcella, sending you and your family loads of love and prayer. Your tribute was heartfelt and beautiful.

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  32. Wow, your writing and telling of your mom is so wonderful!! I wish I could have known her! I'm so sorry for your loss Marcella and for the loss to this earth as she was a definite asset to the lives of all around her I can tell! I'll be praying for comfort , peace of heart and blessings for you and your family!

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  33. Oh how I wish I knew your mother, but it turns out my very large family in Pittsburg KS did. She wasn't there for only but a few years, but they remember her exactly as you described her. My mom worked for Hallmark Cards for years in KC. Small world. I am so sorry to hear about your mother's passing. Your tribute to her was so touching and heartwarming, and I think she would have loved how vibrant your writing is as it matched her perfectly. Love and hugs.

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  34. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your mum sounds simply amazing. And you have written such a wonderful tribute to her

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  35. So sorry for your loss, may she live in all your memories.

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  36. So sorry to learn of your mother's passing. What a heartwarming experience with loved ones at her bedside. She definitely felt the love. We learn so much from our beloved Moms...you were really blessed with a loving and creative Mom. A favorite stamp ..."When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure."

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  37. Oh, what a beautiful tribute to your Mother. So very sorry to hear of your loss, it's tough to lose your Mother.

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  38. So sorry for your loss! You have written a lovely tribute. Cherish the memories!

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  39. I regret never having got to meet Susan. Susan was my 2nd cousin, our fathers were 1st cousin. I did visit her mother and father a few times. I loved visiting with them. Bonnie was into genealogy which I have been doing for 25 years and am hard at work now on our Heard lineage. Beautiful tribute to you mother and will share with some of the other relatives. Prayers are with you and your family

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  40. I'm so sorry Marcella for the loss of your precious Mother. What a treasured blessing to have such a beautiful Mom both inside and out. She sounds like the woman in Proverbs 31.

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  41. Your beautifully written obituary for your wonderful mom brought me to tears. She left quite a legacy. I'm am so sorry for your loss, Marcella. My prayers and healing thoughts for you and your family during this difficult time.

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  42. Thank you for sharing the obituary you wrote for your amazing mom - it is truly beautiful! My condolences to you and your family on the passing of your dear mother, friend and mentor. You honour her with your love of art, nature and life, and I’m sure she is very proud of you. My thoughts are with you.

    Kindest regards

    Ann

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  43. I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs to you.

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  44. Marcy I send hugs to you and your entire family! I am so very sorry for your very great loss! I truly believe that the spirits of our loved ones are always with us and I pray that you feel your Mother's dear presence in those moments when you miss her most and the tears come. God bless and keep you all! :) Jill

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  45. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your tribute was beautifully written. Your Mother sounds like she was an amazing woman. God Bless you and your family.

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  46. I came across your mother's obituary out of curiosity because of her name. What a beautiful tribute to her and of her beautiful life. Very touching. Your mother not only has a similar name to mine, she passed away on my birthday. Only a life well lived enables someone to write such a loving a tribute--I hope you are able to celebrate her life and every memory brings joy of how blessed you were to have her for your mother. Thank you. I am inspired by the words you wrote, inspired by her.

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  47. I cannot get over the loss of Susan. One of our high school friends told me she had died. Somehow I thought someone as perfect as she would live forever. We went to school together through college and even joined the same sorority. Susan and her family will forever be in my heart and prayers.

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  48. So sorry for your loss! I too know the loss of my mother, it's never quite the same after. She will certainly live forever in your heart. Big hugs and loves.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

I love to hear what you’re thinking and I read and appreciate each and every note!

~marcella