Celebration of Life
Final Resting Place
Obituary of Josephine L. Smith
Josephine Lauretta Irving Smith was born in Charleston, SC on May 5, 1928, the youngest child of Elias and Susan Singleton Irving. She departed this life on January 1, 2024 at the Residence at Brookside in Avon, CT, where she lived for the last 2 ½ years.
Her father died when she was two years old, leaving her mother to raise their four children on her own. Although Josephine came from humble origins, she was nurtured in a close-knit community comprising her loving extended family (including her maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins); lifelong friends and neighbors; and her church family at Mother Emanuel AME Church. From this background she developed her deep religious faith, profound devotion to family, intellectual curiosity, and commitment to serving her community.
A bright and accomplished student, Josephine excelled at Buist Elementary School and Burke High School. At Burke she met her best friend and the love of her life, William Reeves Smith, to whom she was married for 67 years until his passing on December 13, 2018. A member of the Burke High School Class of 1944, she went on to receive her B.A. in English from Allen University in Columbia, SC in 1948. In January 1948 she became a Charter Member of Gamma Pi Chapter of her beloved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated at Allen University.
Josephine moved to Harlem, New York, in 1950 and married William there on December 27, 1950. In the early years of their marriage she worked as a preschool teacher while William pursued his M.S. and Ph.D. in biology at Fordham University. After the birth of their first child, Valerie, they moved to Brooklyn, where their two younger children, Daryl and Vera, were born. In 1972, Josephine, William and their family moved to Hempstead, NY where they established strong ties to their community. An inspiring and committed educator, Josephine received her M A. in Elementary Education from Long Island University in 1973. She taught at P. S. 59 and P. S.148 in Brooklyn until her retirement in 1992.
First a member of Bethel AME Church in Freeport, NY, she joined Jackson Memorial AME Zion Church in 1997, where she was an active and devoted member until she relocated to live near her children after the passing of her husband. At Jackson she was a member of the Vacation Bible School staff, Leader of Class 14, and member of the parent body of the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society.
Josephine was also a dedicated member of Nassau Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she served for many years as Chair of Local Projects. She was active on Jabberwock Committees and a host of other chapter programs. She was especially committed to the residents of the A. Holly Patterson Rehabilitation Center in Uniondale, NY and enjoyed participating in the monthly BINGO program that brought the residents a sense of joy and community. She also loved traveling to the Sorority’s conventions and conferences with her husband and daughter, Vera.
Although Josephine moved to New York 74 years ago, she remained deeply connected to her South Carolina roots. During their retirement, she and William spent several months there each year, visiting family members and old friends, exploring Charleston and the surrounding area, worshiping at Mother Emanuel, and attending the Spoleto Festival. She was a splendid cook with a repertoire that included everything from Gullah cuisine to new dishes she had sampled in New York or elsewhere.
Throughout her life Josephine displayed a quick wit and deep intellectual engagement. She was a voracious reader and enjoyed the arts (especially movies and theater), domestic and foreign travel (including to Senegal, the U.K., France, and Germany), puzzles, political analysis – she and William loved watching and discussing Rachel Maddow on MSNBC each evening – and inspirational music. For decades, watching Jeopardy! was a nightly ritual; she never completely got over the death of Alex Trebek.
Josephine loved her family deeply and delighted in visiting her children and grandchildren wherever they lived and celebrating their achievements. She was also proud of the accomplishments of the young people whose paths she crossed in her neighborhood, her church, and her Sorority.
Josephine was predeceased by her parents, Elias and Susan Irving; her husband, Dr. William Reeves Smith; and her siblings, Marguerite Edna Irving Rembert, Harris Nathaniel Irving, and Fred William Irving. She leaves to cherish her memory her children, Dr. Valerie Smith of Swarthmore, PA; Dr. Daryl Smith of Rochester, NY; and Vera Smith-Winfree (Glenn) of Bloomfield, CT; her grandchildren, Alison Smith, Ellis Winfree, and Gage and Miriam Smith; and a host of dear cousins, friends and sorority sisters. The family is grateful to the staff of the Residence at Brookside, and especially to her aides Gladys Gyamfi and Garmei Sackor, for providing compassionate and loving care during the final years of her life.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the following organizations/charities in memory of Josephine L. Smith.
Allen University - In Memory of Josephine L. Smith ‘48
Mail your donation to: Jackson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, 60 Peninsula Blvd., Hempstead, NY 11550 - Memo- Scholarship in memory of Josephine Smith
For those unable to attend the service in person, you may view it on the
Jackson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church Group Facebook page.
The link to the page is immediately below:
You may also view it via Zoom. The Zoom link and contact information are below.
Topic: Celebration of Life for Sis. Josephine Smith
Time: Jan 11, 2024, 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 696 542 4511