Mother Gloria Hortense Smith, earned her wings, surrounded by her loving family, on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. Gloria, the matriarch of the family, a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and spiritual advisor was born on September 19, 1926, the eldest child of the late Frank and Betsy McDowney. She was instrumental in helping to raise her siblings after the premature death of her mother. Gloria was preceded in death by her husband of 60+ years, Lawrence Smith, Jr, daughter, Janice Smith, sisters, Emily Jackson and Lucille Johnson, great grandson, Diamante Kelly, and niece who she loved as a daughter, Lavern Tate.
Gloria was educated in the King George Public School System. At an early age, she accepted Christ and was baptized at Good Hope Baptist Church, King George, Virginia. A woman after GOD’s own heart, Gloria was a true worshipper, spreading the gospel through song at various churches as a member of the Gospel Pearls, a group comprised of her and her sisters. After marriage, she joined Little Zion Baptist Church, Colonial Beach, VA where she served faithfully until her health began to fail. She served in various capacities to include: a member of the Deaconess ministry for 50+ years, member of the senior choir, missionary ministry, kitchen committee, floral ministry, prison ministry, and vacation bible school. She started the first intercessory prayer group and was highly active in planning and participating in the tent ministry where she would ensure her children and grandchildren would be in attendance. Many of them recalling being there for what seemed like hours on end! However, knowing it was not optional, they were there, and they knew they’d better look like they were paying attention.
Gloria was united in holy matrimony to Lawrence Smith Jr. in 1946 and to this union, seven children were born. She was a loving wife and nurturing mother to her children and many children in the surrounding areas. It is highly likely at some point most of the neighborhood children and adults have eaten one of Mother Hortense’s meals. She was a phenomenal cook and loved opening her home to everyone. While enjoying one of her scrumptious meals, not only were you fed physically but also spiritually! She loved cooking so much that she made a living utilizing her skills, retiring from Westmoreland County Public School System as a cafeteria worker. Her children, grandchildren, and all their friends loved going through the cafeteria line to get “some extras” during lunch.
When you hear the song, I Had a Praying Grandmother, you think of Grandma Nanny/Grandma Hortense as she was affectionally called by her grandchildren. Her prayers and support have carried many generations of grandchildren throughout every facet of their lives and her impact has and will remain a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for each one of them!
Tall in stature with dignity and class, Gloria loved getting dolled up in beautiful dresses to include jewelry and a mean Sunday go-to-meeting hat to match! Even as her health declined, she made sure she had her lipstick and earrings on because a lady should always look and poise herself as such!
Gloria imparted wisdom, encouragement, and love to all that were fortunate enough to be in her presence. At 91, based on a recommendation from her great-niece, Deborah, Gloria was featured in the magazine entitled
Unashamed and shared many moments of her life’s journey growing up in the Jim Crow south. One of the comments she made during that interview was she “always dreamed of being someone amazing”! We are blessed and proud to say she truly was someone amazing! A sincere, compassionate, tenacious, supportive woman who not only displayed dignity and goodness but most importantly, Godliness! The lyrics of the song “May the Works I’ve Done Speak for Me” are truly a testament of the 96 years of dedication to God, family, friends, and church.
Gloria leaves to continue her legacy of love: six loving children, Irene Kelly, Lawrence Smith, III (Yvonne), Carolyn Smith, Larry Smith (Bonnie), Sharleen Smith, Joseph Smith; son adopted in love, Apostle Dr. Russell Smith (Jeannette); four brothers and one sister, Cleveland McDowney, Rev. Annie Laura Parker (George), Johnny McDowney, Harry McDowney, Daryl McDowney (Alda); 31 grandchildren including devoted Trina Kelly-Farmer and Antwan Smith; 66 great-grandchildren; 13 great-great grandchildren; a host of nieces, nephews and other family members and friends, among those, the very dear Mary West and Shirley Mae Campbell.
Services of Remembrance for Deaconess Gloria H. Smith who entered into eternal rest on Tuesday, May 2., will be held on Wednesday, May 10 at 11AM in the sanctuary of the Little Zion Baptist Church, 7748 Leestown Road, Oak Grove, Virginia.
Interment will follow in the Smith Family Cemetery, Foxhall Road, Oak Grove, Virginia
Viewing will be on Tuesday, May 9 from 6PM until 8PM and from 10AM until service time on Wednesday at Little Zion Baptist Church.
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