Jane G. Smith was born in historic Staunton, VA, on March 26, 1918, the youngest child of Fannie Davis Smith Goines and Stonewall Jackson Goines. She attended T. C. Edmunds Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School in Staunton. As a teenager, Jane was the last of her six siblings to be home. Fannie did not want to leave Jane at home during her working hours, and she arranged for Jane to go to Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston MA, to live with a close family friend. She completed her high school education at Roxbury Memorial High School. After finishing high school, Jane studied at Hampton Institute for 2 years in a work/study program. Her studies were terminated, with great regret, because of an illness and a lack of tuition funds.
Upon returning home, Jane found her mother in an abusive domestic employment position being imposed by a wealthy citizen of Staunton. Against her mother’s advice, Jane found the courage, without hesitation, to approach her mother’s employer with a passionate argument of disrespect, insensitivity, and unreasonable labor requirements. She indicated very precisely that her mother could not work the required live-in hours or carry out the many required tasks at her age. The encounter defined the need for Jane and her mother to purchase a home for themselves. Jane initiated and implemented a work plan to purchase a place for them to live. They purchased a duplex around 1939-1940, and they were able to generate income at the same time. This is a typical display of the courageous character, ingenuity, and follow-through that was a natural part of Jane’s response to a life challenge.
During a social outing in 1940, attended by Jane and a childhood school friend, Irving Russell Smith, a coupling was established. Jane and Irving were married on September 26, 1941, a marriage that lasted 72 years. Jane proved to be the perfect partner for Irving, a team that exhibited a productive character for the remainder of their lives. Irving was the provider and planner and always generated high ideas. Jane complimented and integrated the plan into the family structure. She ensured that the agreed values for the family unit were protected and each member benefited from a peaceful, functional environment for healthy spiritual, psychological, social, and physical development. Jane always supported Irving’s entrepreneurial spirit by creating a stable home environment.
Jane maintained her allegiance to the AME Church, fellowshipping with her mother, during the time she lived in Staunton. She played the piano and sang in the choir. She directed multiple seasonal plays and was on the Pastor’s Aid Committee.
Determined to pursue greater opportunities, Jane and Irving moved the family to Richmond, VA, in 1956. A church home was sought immediately, and the Smith Family was greeted with open arms and a friendly smile by the St. Paul’s Baptist Church, Richmond, VA. Jane changed her membership from the AME Church to St. Paul’s Baptist Church so that the family could worship together. She and Irving were always devoted to the service of God and expressed their love for God through their work in the church and the way they conducted themselves: at home, on the job, and as they related to others.
Jane’s abilities were recognized by most who encountered her, particularly Irving. She was usually the negotiator for services and products while Irving would stand to the side ready to pay the agreed price. He realized early in their relationship that he could depend on Jane’s intelligence, judgment and communication skills, coupled with an inherent charm that usually worked to the advantage of their objectives.
Jane extended her many talents and skills as she positioned herself for the service of God. She served as the interim director of the youth choir. Because of her personality and observed character, Jane was asked to start a Hospitality component for St Paul’s Baptist Church. She organized the Hospitality Committee for the usual services of greeting members and creating comfortable settings for carrying out church programs. As director of the hospitality committee, she saw the opportunity to expand its scope to include the organization of annual trips to many locations across the United States and Canada. This offered an opportunity for an annual vacation experience to many inexperienced travelers. This also served as a successful means of raising needed money for the Hospitality Committee, the initial motivation for the expansion.
Jane and Irving committed a large part of their immediate post-retirement time and personal resources to the application and the organization of a Federal Food Bank Distribution Center, a first for St. Paul’s Baptist Church at that time. Jane was responsible for the smooth operation of the Center with Irving acting as her helper. The Center provided boxes of food for hundreds of the needy, weekly.
To enhance her organizational skills, she saw the need for more personal development. Jane attended and graduated from the Smith Madden School of Business in Richmond, VA. She used these skills as part of her church and home experiences for the appropriate maintenance of records, the generation of communications, and as part of the development of negotiating points. She also earned her real estate license.
Jane was a master at making other people feel important early in her life. She would find the good in everyone. Her empathic and genuinely loving nature always made other people feel good about themselves and their environment. She would frequently find herself engaged in conversations of a counseling nature related to personal matters of her associates, who expressed a sense of her as a true friend and a trusted character. These skills became apparent as Jane rose to the position of supervisor at the General Defense Supply Center, GDSC, where it was acknowledged that she pushed her workers towards increased productivity with positive encouragement and kindness, always identifying only with the best that she saw in those individuals. Jane’s team at GDSC had a record number of promotions to higher job positions, and this became a trend during her tour as supervisor. Jane received multiple awards for her work at GDSC and was cited several times, as part of her retirement celebration,
for the excellence of her management skills.
Jane had a very close relationship with her children. She introduced humor and balance in their lives. She taught them discipline with a loving nature. She was the quintessential woman described in Proverbs 31.
Jane and Irving traveled to many distant parts of the world, spending time in Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, England, and East Africa (Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia).
In 2007, Jane and Irving decided to sell their home in Richmond, VA, and moved to Columbia, SC, to live near their son, Russell. They lived there for one year fellowshipping as members of Brooklyn Baptist Church, Columbia, SC. They were relocated to Sacramento, CA, by their children after Jane became ill, traveling to California to her granddaughter’s wedding. Jane and Irving ended up living in Sacramento with their youngest daughter, Vanessa, for five years making many friends and fellowshipping as members of the St. Paul Baptist Church, Sacramento, CA. They relocated to San Francisco in 2013. With the passing of Irving shortly afterward, Jane continued living with their oldest daughter, Jane Evangeline for the past nine-plus years. Jane cultivated many close friends in San Francisco and fellowshipped at The Historic Third Baptist Church, pastored by her son-in-law, Dr. Amos C. Brown Sr.
Jane and Irving patiently pinned a book, “With God’s Blessing: The Family Legacy of Irving and Jane Smith”, published in 2015. The book is on display in the library at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
Jane leaves to cherish her memory three daughters and one son: Jane Smith Brown (Amos, Sr.), Irving Russell Smith, Jr., Mercedes Decethia Morrison (Isaiah, III), and Myrtle Vanessa Logan (Keith), Thirteen grandchildren: Amos Cleophilus Brown, Jr. (Stacey), David Josephus Brown, Kizzie Brown Duah (Kingsley), Irving Russell Smith, III (Monique), William Wallace Smith Sr.(Kimberly), Laurence Rylan Smith, Lauren Smith Christy,(Wilber), Isaiah Purnell Morrison, IV (Adanma), Maia Morrison Jackson (Jeffrey), Torwanda Linese Clomon, Sheronda Denise Cammack, Cassandra Lolita Gonzalez, and Andre Rashawn Logan; Twenty-nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews, other relativities, Hamilton and Regina Derricott and friends.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution can be made to The Senior Center Ministry of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94115.
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