Ann C. Smith: 1925-2018
Ann Catherine (Grilliot) Smith passed away in her home surrounded by many loving family members on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 2018. She was born on February 15, 1925, in Darke County, Ohio, to James and Barbara Grilliot. At the age of 5, she and her 3 brothers and 2 sisters moved from the bountiful state of Ohio to the desolate plains of western Kansas living in a “basement house” during the dustbowl days of the Dirty Thirties.
Her father, James Grilliot, died early in life from a tragic farm tractor accident on their farm in Kansas. At that time, she and her family were living in the vicinity of Syracuse, Kansas, in a “castle” on the plains. The loss of her father was a terrible hardship and tragedy for the entire family of six children in the pulse of World War II raging across the continent in the Pacific and European Theaters. Ann was 20 years old at the time of the death of her father, and her mother, Barbara Grilliot, was stricken with unbearable grief at a time in the country whence mental help was imprecise. Stories of her childhood and journeys in life were shared with great enthusiasm, and she co-authored two books about her life with her daughter Kathleen entitled, Ohio Star of Bent County, Colorado and later, Road To 90.
Ann was a true woman of the plains, and as beautiful as any prairie flower on a spring day. She and her husband, Mahlon Dean Smith of 64 years, and a WWII 10th Mountain Division Veteran, pioneered a family home of 16 children post war years in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. She and her husband took baby booming literally, with five sons and eleven daughters. A good Catholic family, they chose the following names from the oldest, born in 1946, to the youngest, born in 1968: Michael Dean, Carol Ann, Kathleen Marie, John Daniel, Richard Delbert, Barbara Ellen, Mark Clark, Margaret Mary, Jeffrey Allen, Susan Elizabeth, Janelle Rose, Mary Louise, Nancy Irene, Karen Elaine, Joanna Kay, and last but not least, Amy Lucille.
Ann was always proud to be the wife of a veteran and became a life member of the VFW Auxiliary serving veterans in the community. Several of her daughters are life members and continue with her volunteerism.
Ann was a homemaker in every sense of the word. She passed these skills on to all her daughters, teaching them to sew, cook, clean and keep a good home while at the same time keeping a cheerful heart, regardless how difficult times were.
Ann was an icon in the lower Arkansas River Valley, in Las Animas, the mother of 16 children, grandmother of 110, friend to everyone. Ann volunteered at the Kit Carson Museum in Las Animas for many years, scheduling the volunteers, then volunteering at the Heritage Library at the “new” Museum. She proofread 38 Bent County Chronicles for her daughter Kathleen and continued a lifetime membership for the Bent County Historical Society. Ann enjoyed meeting new people and talking about the history of the valley. One day a Festus impersonator visited her at the Kit Carson Museum and she was so thrilled about that experience.
Later in life, Ann left the isolated prairie south of Hasty and John Martin Reservoir and moved to a house on Maple Street in Las Animas. Her husband, Mahlon, died in 1987 at the VA Hospital in Denver. Ann worked at the VA Hospital at the time of his death as a medical transcriptionist and retired a few years later. Her life away from the ranch and in retirement was very lively, traveling independently and freely, and continued until the time of her recent death. She volunteered at her church all her married life and was famous at the annual bazaar for “Mrs. Smith’s pies.” Ann was always spiritually enlightened and a woman working for the Love of God in her long life and on her journey home to heaven. She will soon be resting peacefully at the Peaceful Valley Cemetery on the vast and lonely plains of southeast Colorado, a mile south of the home place where she raised her beautiful family.
Written by Margaret Johnson and Kathleen Tomlin.