Smith, Eunice Martin

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Eunice Martin Smith, 97, of Christiansburg, was born in Stuart, June 24, 1914, the second oldest of eight siblings on Thomas and Fannie Vernon Martin’s tobacco farm. She died Thursday evening, May 10, 2012, which was six weeks shy of her 98th birthday.

Mrs. Smith was a dynamite bundle of no-nonsense common sense. And she had street-credibility, as evidenced by her entrance to most every business establishment in the New River Valley for her entire adult life. Invariably when she walked through the door at the bank or the post office or the Country Kitchen out on Route 11 (her favorite eatery for decades), a former student inside would approach with a greeting and an anecdote Mrs. Smith taught him or her that, to that very moment, rang unequivocally true in his or her life.

Mrs. Smith, who preferred to be called Mrs. Leo in a gracious nod to her late husband, taught business and typing at Christiansburg High School for more than 30 years, and would proudly announce to anyone within earshot that during that tenure she educated 2,958 students. Until very recently she could still name the students that hunted-and-pecked. It drove her nuts.

Mrs. Leo was a glowing example of Great Depression will and World War II independence. Like many ladies of her era, she didn’t need a man to show her the way to complete a task, and certainly didn’t need a man to do it for her. She took great pride in doing it herself. Without a word, she taught her family the value of hard work and importance of self-confidence and not backing down from your convictions.

Her life’s greatest passion came in the form of the 358 acres she and her late husband bought decades ago. She worked that land dawn-to-dusk well into her 93rd year, until Virginia decided she shouldn’t drive any longer. She built fences, bailed hay and planted gardens. In fact, she was still planting the garden adjacent to her Christiansburg home at age 95.

Mrs. Leo’s union with her late husband, Leo Harvey Smith, was spawned by a chance-meeting that summed up well her vigor. As a young teacher at Christiansburg High, Mrs. Leo lent her classroom to Mr. Smith, so that he might use her blackboard during an agriculture lecture. Afterward he failed to clean the blackboard or dust the erasers. That didn’t set well with Mrs. Leo. And she told him about it. Vehemently. They fell in love and stayed that way for the rest of their respective days. Mrs. Leo never removed her wedding band.

Mrs. Leo was preceded in death by her husband, Leo Harvey Smith; her son, Leo Harvey “Butch” Smith II, of Pearisburg; her daughter-in-law, Joy Massey Smith, also of Pearisburg; and siblings, Rosa Ellen Griffin, Annie Sue Doss and Katie Doss, each of Spencer, Frank Martin, of Martinsville, and Ola Mae Williams, of Collinsville.

She is survived by siblings, Otis Martin, of Stuart, and Frances Martin, of Winston-Salem, N.C.; grandchildren, Stacy Smith, of Clarksburg, Md., and Marty Smith, of Huntersville, N.C.; and great-grandchildren, Nicolas Gramatges, and Cambron and Mia Smith. Her niece, Peggy Dickerson, of Salem, was like a daughter to Mrs. Leo.

Visitation for Mrs. Leo will take place Monday, May 14 between 6 and 8 p.m. at Horne Funeral Home in Christiansburg. Graveside services will be private and family-only.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to American Cancer Society in Mrs. Leo’s name.

Mrs. Leo’s unique fire will be missed, but never extinguished. And Heaven’s garden just got much more lush.

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