Mother of the Year: Barbara Jean Jones Smith

Published 8:28 pm Saturday, May 11, 2019

“I think she’s extraordinary as a wife, mother, and educator and want to salute her for the grace and delight she brings to all who know her.”

Those are the words of Rev. Charles M. Smith, about his wife of nearly 58 years, Barbara. These words and more prompted the Washington Daily News to name Barbara Jean Jones Smith, Washington native, Washington High School Class of ’58 alumnus, public school teacher, pastor’s wife and world traveler as this year’s Mother of the Year.

Smith tells the story of their son Michael’s birth in 1963, during halftime of the Duke-Maryland football game on CBS — he remembers because he’d brought the TV to the hospital so they could watch the game while awaiting Michael’s arrival.

“Trooper that she is, Barbara left and delivered before the final whistle. Two weeks later, she went with me to watch Duke play Virginia,” Smith wrote.

From there, the young family took off to Aberdeen, Scotland, “… Where I worked with the Presbyterians, and she marched around our flat with our two-year-old who loved pipes and drums.”

On their return to Washington, and starting a church in Greenville, they got happy news: baby number two was on the way. Sadly, Heather Smith was born in 1967 with a hole in her heart and died at less than three weeks old, “victim of our having encountered someone in our traveling who had measles while Barbara was newly, unknowingly pregnant, causing Heather’s heart not to develop properly and condemning her to an early death.”

But a year later, Laura was born, “another beautiful daughter who sang and smiled and generally brightened our lives.” She, too, had challenges to surmount — a learning disability realized in elementary school; a diagnosis of bipolar mood disorder in college.

“One of the things they don’t tell you when you’re young is that when you have children, although they do grow up and leave the nest, they’re always on your mind and heart, especially if one of them fits into that broad category euphemistically called ‘special needs.’ Barbara has not only excelled in mothering our daughter and our talented son and his family, but went back to Carolina while doing all that and became a public school teacher, ranging from English to drama to social studies and winding up taking additional classes certifying her to teach the bottom 20% in kindergarten and first grade how to read.”

For decades, Barbara Smith chose to teach the neediest of children, while Charlie Mike Smith ministered to United Methodist congregations across the eastern half of North Carolina.

“I’ve often joked that although I was a pastor, she was the missionary in our family,” Smith wrote. “That wisdom book in the Bible, Proverbs, closes with a hymn to a good wife, and I like the way Eugene Peterson’s translation sings it: ‘Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: “Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all.”’”

Happy Mother’s Day to Barbara Jean Jones Smith, and all moms everywhere.

The Smiths could not be reached before print. Look for a photo of this year’s Mother of the Year in next week’s Washington Daily News.