The past two weeks have felt like two years because so many things have happened. Personally, the biggest thing was the loss of my dear Granny Jo on March 9. She had been in a lot of pain the past few weeks and had significantly declined in her cognitive function and memory over the past year. She’s had dementia for quite a while, but she was mostly herself until about a year ago. She could not find our names, but I could tell that she knew that she knew us.
As I mentioned in December, she was in pretty bad shape, so her passing has honestly been a huge relief. Seeing her in pain was horrible my family, and it is happiness to know that she is free. I will always remember the last good Christmas we had with her in 2017 when she was covered in presents as her little majesty DESERVED.
We were very lucky that our family could afford for her to live her final years in an assisted living community with people who took outstanding care of her. She was surrounded by wonderful caregivers and a lot of folks in our community who she knew. She was not thrilled to be out of her “peach palace” (seriously, her entire house was shades of peach and pink), but it was necessary to make sure she was getting the care she needed at this stage.
Below is the eulogy I shared at her services this past week, and since that is the best tribute I can do, then I will leave it here for her.
Thank you for joining us today to celebrate 90 fabulous years of our Granny Jo.
In the days since she passed, I have seen an overwhelming number of comments about what a sweet lady she was. To be honest, it had me wondering if we knew the same Jo Smart.
The Jo Smart I knew was quick witted, mischievous, sharp, and opinionated. She was a master of giving side eye and feigning absolute SHOCK that anyone would have the gall to tease her. She certainly could be sweet, but mostly she was a force to be reckoned with. I spent last Friday evening on the phone with my dad trying to figure out if he and my mom should go forward with their plans to fly out to see us this week. We went back and forth, and I knew he wanted to visit us, but I could also tell that he was really concerned about Granny Jo’s health. We ended the conversation still uncertain of what to do.
But Granny Jo being Granny Jo, she made the decision for us and without consulting us, and left for heaven that very night. She has always done exactly what she wants.
We often joke that Granny Jo’s proudest moment was when she was featured in the paper with her kitty, Sassy. The article began with one of her favorite phrases, “It’s better to laugh than cry.” So, in her honor, we are going to do just that today.
If you knew Granny Jo for any period of time, then you know how much she loved fashion and glamour. When we were younger, she would take us over to the Killeen Mall to hit up Dillard’s for Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Our Dillard’s adventure was always met with the family battle cry of “SHOP SHOP CHARGE!” which made her sons and husband physically cringe with horror at the thought of the money that was going to be spent. Thankfully, men were not invited on these excursions.
We had so much fun modeling clothes at Dillard’s for Granny Jo’s review, approval, and feedback. And there was always plenty of feedback, but also plenty of laughter. She may not have appreciated our preference for boxy soccer shorts and oversized t-shirts, but she always let us decide in the end.
For Christmas, she had all of our clothes beautifully wrapped, and we gathered on Christmas Eve at her house to open gifts. And the minute we were done, we took down the tree, fixed the furniture, vacuumed the room, and Christmas was back neatly packed away before Christmas had even happened. Not a stitch of it was left.
Granny Jo was also never short on fashion and beauty “advice” for us girls – especially when it came to hair. She preferred that Scotti keep her hair shoulder length or shorter, I was not to straighten my hair, Hannah should always have curls, and Sari simply does not have the right ears for a ponytail. She was also routinely appalled that Hannah paid good money for jeans with holes in them, and was forever dismayed by our consistent lack of pantyhose.
Granny Jo’s time spent at the salon getting her hair perfectly coiffed with Margaret, and later Jan, was sacred. No one dare mess with her weekly appointment schedule. That hair was getting done no matter what. And if you happened to visit her in the past few months when she was not able to make it to the salon anymore, then I ask that you kindly forget that you ever saw her without her curls. She would be HORRIFIED to learn that she had been seen without her hair properly done, so let’s agree to pretend it never happened.
During the holidays, we were able to spend an evening with her when Silver Creek held a party for the residents. By then, Granny Jo spoke very little and did not seem to recognize us at all anymore. It was the first time that Sari and I had seen her in that state, and it was quite upsetting.
We started dinner, and at one point my dad dropped some of the toppings from his baked potato in his lap. While wiping off his pants, he grumbled to himself that he was making a mess. Without a moment of hesitation, Granny Jo slid her eyes to the side, looked at him wryly, and said “You sure are.” She wasn’t sure who we were, but she was confident that we were a mess. To that point, we opted for a morning service today to ensure that lunch was after so that no one would embarrass her by showing up with a food stain.
(This is one of my favorite pictures of her because it’s 100% glamour shot, Barbara Walters filter, and with the most jewelry bang for the buck with the arm selection).
One of my favorite memories of Granny Jo was her insistence that half a Dr. Pepper could fix most things, but a Dr. Pepper float could fix ALL THINGS.It didn’t matter what had happened, but a half a can of Dr. Pepper was always the first step of recovery.
Our Pawpaw, Justin Smart, was one of the sweetest people I have ever known, and I always enjoyed watching him and firecracker Granny Jo interact. Riding with them was always an adventure because the entire drive Granny Jo would poke Pawpaw in the side to make sure he was awake while feeding him a steady stream of Big Red gum. No one was falling asleep behind the wheel on her watch, but I have always suspected that she secretly enjoyed having a reason to poke him.
We cannot talk about our Granny Jo without mentioning one of her greatest sources of joy, the kitties. She believed that they were absolute perfection, unlike the rest of us. Growing up, we had what my father might call a “plague of cats” at our house. When new kittens were born, Sari and I would carefully pick out the right one for Granny Jo. One year we gave her our favorite kitty who was lovingly named “Lil’ Stinky.” “Lil’ Stinky” went on to become her beloved kitty Tweetie, so we made the right choice.
Unfortunately, we totally missed the mark a few times and a kitten was unceremoniously returned to us. We would see her white Oldsmobile flying up our driveway and my Dad would shout, “She’s bringing that cat back!” And we would all run outside just in time to see a bewildered kitten sitting in the yard and her taillights headed back down the road without a single word about it.
As mentioned in the program, Granny Jo was careful with her praise as a rule. She was always there to keep our egos in check lest any of us start to believe we were overly special. She was particularly worried about her boys thinking too highly of themselves, so she exercised extreme caution in adulation. I don’t know if my dad and Uncle Ross knew all of the wonderful things she said about them behind their backs, but she frequently told us how proud she was of them and how she did not know what she would do without them. So, Dad, Ross, please don’t let this information go to your heads.
And even though she kept her boys in check, she never hesitated to tell us girls how proud she was of what we had accomplished, even if our outfits had room for improvement. Thankfully, she finally found one pretty perfect person among us – her great-grandsonr. She was completely delighted by him, and would proudly show us his newest photo whenever we visited her.
I believe that the luckiest of kids get to grow up close to their grandparents, and the four of us were extremely blessed to have so many years with ours. Granny Jo was beautiful, funny, stylish, and smart, but she was also stubborn, persistent, direct, meticulous, and bossy. These adjectives are usually seen in a negative light when used to describe a woman, but I think that these are some of the best traits my grandmother possessed. She knew what she wanted and how she wanted it, and God bless anyone who stood in her way.
Granny Jo had a huge heart filled with love and laughter, but she also suffered no fools. She showed her granddaughters that it was okay to have a strong opinion, to be a bit difficult when necessary, and that there was no better way to show someone that you loved them than to give them a good ribbing.
We are grateful that you are here today to join us in celebrating the life of Jo Kathryn Smart. She was a one-of-a-kind lady, and she will be dearly missed. I know that today she is happy and reunited with some of the people she loved most in this world, and, as I choose to believe, her beloved kitties too.