Read About An Apparently Amazing Person

With all the bad news we are deluged with, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that a very interesting person can be living just down the street.

I was checking the local paper to see if there was an Obit posted for a neighbor who died unexpectedly. I didn’t see it so I perused some others. In the process, I came across a wonderful eulogy. (Out of respect for her family’s privacy I will not mention her real name and will exclude some personal info.) Here is what I read…

Sophia Smith, “A Beautifully Aged Red”, of Raleigh, NC, age 94, passed away beautifully and peacefully after a brief illness on January 31st, 2024, and went to see her God, her friend, Jesus, joined her daughter, Betty, and all the loved ones that were waiting for her. She was surrounded by family and wonderful, wonderful caregivers.

Her great-grandson, Stone, age 5, said she was “the oldest and wisest person” he knows. She was born June 5, 1929, and raised in Rocky Mount to William Jones and Maudie Murphy. She was the baby girl and the most competitive of six children. Sophia made her own merry-go-round and see-saw when she was a child.

She graduated with honors from Rocky Mount High School, was a Girl Scout, a member of the Beta Club, and voted The Best Guard in Girls Basketball in the county. Although she had opportunities to move away, she chose to be the caretaker of her parents throughout their lives and remained in NC.

She grew up during the Depression and knew the value of the small things that added up to the big things. Growing up in the country she could cut down trees, roof a house, pick cotton, barn tobacco, skin a possum, shoot a squirrel, and catch catfish. Sophia could catch two fish at a time. She said, “If it’s big enough to bite my hook, it’s big enough to stink my pan.” She loved gardening and yard work. She said, “I love anything that blooms in the garden … even a weed.”

She went to Nursing School at Rex Hospital and trained at Dorothea Dix, Computer Data School, Real Estate School, and Photography School. She was a member of the Raleigh Ramblers Red Hatters and The Eastern Star. She was a member of the RWBA Bowlers Association and competed in many City and State Tournaments and over 25 National Tournaments. She was a City and State Champion and one of the Founding Members of the RWBA 600 Club of which she was also the Grand Marshall of their 600 Friendship Tournament in October 2023. Sophia was a proud member of the DITS (Daughters In Training) and loved “Carolina Moon” and performing it at Wild Women’s Weekend.

She was a member of First Baptist Church for over 70 years, loved her church friends, and weekly helped feed the Hungry through First Table Feeding Ministry. Sophia was a wonderful cook: best collard greens, chili with cloves, scrambled eggs, fried chicken, cornbread, potato salad, and vegetable soup. Back in 1980, she had a bottle of wine she had won for highest sales while she was working at The Angus Barn. Her 2 daughters came for lunch and she pulled out that bottle to serve with her delicious vegetable soup. Later she found out that bottle was worth $700! It was a perfect pairing with her vegetable soup.

In her early working career, Sophia was a secretary for 2 years and could type 80 words a minute, sold World Book Encyclopedias and Stanley Home Products. She was Manager/Hostess at Ballentine’s Restaurant for 13 years and that’s where she got the nickname, “Red.” She worked at Corning Glass Works in the early 1960s on 2 major projects. She helped solve prototype problems with the design engineers working on electric microchips and integrated circuits for NASA.

At the same time, she was working on High Reliability Capacitors for the 1st Minuteman Missile Project requiring a Zero Failure Rate. Later she was Manager at The Velvet Cloak in charge of all banquets and parties until Mr. Thad Eure, Jr. asked her to come work at The Angus Barn. Sophia worked at The Barn for 42 years as Top Trainer/Waitress and loved every minute. There are only two named seating stations at The Barn and one is called “Sophia’s Station.” She was the longest-serving waitress at The Barn and said there was no restaurant in the world that served a better steak than The Angus Barn. After she retired, Van said she could come and just give out apples if she wanted to at any time. She continued to support The Walk For Hope and The Angus Barn treated her like a queen.

For 23 years at the same time she was working at The Barn, Sophia had her own business with her brother, Leroy, at the Atlantic Beach North Carolina Circle Boardwalk. They owned The Pit Stop Go-Cart Track/Arcade/Snack Bar. She would work at The Barn from Labor Day to Memorial Day and then head for the beach to run the track for the summers. Her 3 grandsons would get to spend a week each summer working with her, riding go-carts, playing arcade games, swimming, and staying up late-they LOVED it!

Grandma Sophia was a card shark and taught them how to be good losers. She later leased the location to Lisa Hill for Lisa’s Bar and then to her daughter, Betty, for Changing Colors Arcade and Snack Bar. Also, while she worked at The Barn, Sophia worked at Ford’s Gourmet Foods at the NC State Farmers Market as Credit Manager. Again, growing up in the Depression, it was hard to get credit with her. Of course, she won Top Salesperson year after year selling Bone Suckin’ Sauce. She inspired the sauce’s name because she would suck the bones until there was no meat left.

She traveled with her daughter and grandson around the USA and many foreign countries, working at trade shows and making friends. She loved Paris! If you asked her which job she loved and enjoyed the longest, she would say being a Mother. Sophia was married to Reginald “Ray” Smith for 15 years. After their divorce, although she had many suitors and proposals, she never remarried and remained lifelong friends with Ray. They had 2 daughters, Sandra and Betty. He later became a Chaplain for the DAV. She said they would have stayed married if not for “that mean old lady Smith,” her mother-in-law.

Even though she sometimes worked 3 jobs, Sophia made time to be a wonderful mother: Brownie and Girl Scout Leader, PTA Mother, Sunday School Teacher, and was always pushing and supporting her girls in all parts of life. While caring for her dear parents, she also helped raise a grandson. She always said if you needed help, look first at the hand at the bottom of your own arm. She lived in the same house for 70 years in Raleigh and had the prettiest home and yard in the neighborhood.

In 2020, The Tarheel Traveler with Scott Mason on WRAL featured Sophia in an episode named “Grandmother Rocks and Relishes In Raleigh Front Yard.” For 70 years she had grown a black walnut tree from a sapling given to her by her Daddy. It grew over 100 feet tall, and she cut it down and made 28 adult rocking chairs and 4 child rocking chairs for her family. Sophia asked, “I did a good job, didn’t I?” Yes, you did Mama!

A few things about Sophia, her favorite color: all of them; favorite flower: Trumpet Tree; favorite candy: Southern Yum Pecan Brittle (911); favorite drink: Bailey’s Irish Cream; AND Buttons: The Smartest Dog In The World. If you didn’t know her, you would have been “thrilled” to meet Sophia. She gave the best, tightest hugs and was always the last to let go. Thank You To everyone who loved and took care of my wonderful Mama!

My 2¢: there a lot to admire here, but I loved the “roof a house” part!

Copyright 2024. John Droz, Jr.. All rights reserved.

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