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Posted Aug 2, 2012, 12:01 pm
RIP Eileen "Pat" I. Smith, Aug. 21, 1916-Aug. 1, 2012
My grandmother grew up on the endless plains of South Dakota, and while she may have kept a small-town sensibility all of her life, was never provincial.
She was born during the First World War, worked her way through college during the Depression, patiently mothered her way through World War II and then typified mid-century Midwestern suburbia, and entered the 21st Century with a sharp wit intact.
She learned to hand-set type and copy edit back when both practices were still in vogue. She kept the home fires burning for my grandfather while he fought in the Pacific, and raised her two sons in California, Texas and then Illinois.
Before settling into the life of a wife of a journalism professor, she sometimes helped out on the copy desk of the family newspaper (before my family got out of the business end long before the getting was good).
She was stubborn, pragmatic and often persnickety.
Well into her 90s, she was still driving in the Wisconsin snow and repainting the side of the garage, and deftly typing on her manual typewriter more quickly than I could ever hope to manipulate a computer keyboard. I learned more prose style from her carefully and economically composed letters than I ever did in a class.
She was, true to her Cornish and Scots-Irish heritage, frugal. She saved string and buttons and recycled newspapers decades before it was hip.
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She was also cultured for a South Dakota girl who came of age during the Depression. She enjoyed the theatre, fine art and above all reading great books. She volunteered at the Chippewa Valley Museum and spent many years keeping her church library organized — first with a card catalog and then with a computer.
And true to form for the daughter of an early radio repairman, she was fascinated by the idea of journalism on the Internet - if sometimes a bit perplexed by Windows.
I'll miss you, Grandma.