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Grace Marie Smith, age 80, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, passed away on August 29, 2022 at Christiana Hospital in Newark, DE. She was the wife of Ralph F. Smith, with whom she shared 59 years of marriage. Born and raised in Lawrence, Massachusetts, she was a daughter of the late Angelo Pappalardo and the late Mary Reitano Pappalardo.
Grace graduated from Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts with a BA in Business Education.
Grace was a longtime, active member of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kennett Square where she participated in various ministries, in particular, teaching CCD classes and volunteering with Family Promise.
Grace taught for one year at Methuen High School in Massachusetts. For the next three years she followed her husband to Italy where he was stationed. That journey to Italy and Europe was the beginning of many wonderful travel adventures she and Ralph took through the years. Grace was a student of the Italian language and enjoyed happy hours with her Italian-speaking classmates. Grace was also well known for her wonderful Italian cooking, especially her chicken cutlet and sausages.
Grace used her business acumen while employed at Bank of The Brandywine for a number of years and later in her career Grace was assistant to the director of the Willowdale Steeplechase. During her 10 years at Willowdale, Grace enjoyed interacting with community members while planning the annual event.
Grace’s greatest love, however, was for her two children, Kathleen and Brian. Grace was a loving, involved mother and she was always there to help with homework and to drive Kathleen and Brian to their many sports and activities.
In 1995, Brian became paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a car accident. For the next 20 years Grace devoted herself to Brian’s care until his passing in 2015.
In addition to her husband, Ralph, and daughter, Kathleen Kolanko, Grace is survived by Kathleen’s husband, Frank, and her beloved and cherished grandchildren, Mary Paige, Erin, Frankie, Nolan, Jamie, and Crosby. She is also survived by her brother, Joseph Pappalardo of South Yarmouth, MA and many nieces and nephews as well as many close friends.
You are invited to her visitation from 9:45AM to 10:45AM, Tuesday, September 6, 2022 at First Baptist Church of Kennett Square, 415 W State Street, Kennett Square, PA 19348. Her memorial Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11:00AM at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 212 Meredith Street, Kennett Square. Guests are invited to d rive or walk over to church for Mass. Interment will follow Mass at St. Patrick Cemetery. Contributions in her memory may be made to KACS (Kennett Area Community Service) online at https://www.kacsonline.net/ . Please mention the donation is in memory of Grace Smith. Arrangements are by Grieco Funeral Home & Crematory Inc. ( 484-734-8100 ). To view her online obituary, please visit www.griecofunerals.com
Amazing Grace’s Eulogy
The first day we met in July 1962, our first day at the AVCO Missiles and Space cafeteria in Wilmington Mass., there was one chair left at the table – I held my breath until she sat there, the most beautiful, smiling, happy, friendly, mysterious Italian women I had ever met. I pointed to her right eye and my first nervous words were “I got mine coaching lacrosse where did you get yours”? We both had stiches under our eyes. It worked! Mentally I cleared my calendar and stopped by her office every day from then on (like this year at Arden Courts dementia care unit) before I felt confident to ask her out. Not only did she say yes, next day she invited me to her family picnic in Salisbury beach. I met all her wonderful family: Mary, Angelo and brother Joseph and a couple uncles and aunts and families. And there I learned not ever to take her to a fresh water anything. I realized our future together would be “at the beach”.
The next thing I realized was that she was Catholic and no way was she going to change. From that day on WE never missed a Sunday mass, holy day of obligation, religious family event anywhere in the world until dementia got her last year (what a horrible disease). After ten years of “being a Catholic in participation only”, I decided to get credit and secretly converted in Wilmington, DE. At Christmas dinner of 1973 I announced to her family that I was a real Catholic. I was a hero maybe a saint in making. But not once did Grace or her Parents ever ask or suggest I should convert. Grace’s mom was one of the most considerate, confidence building, religious, thankful to God person I have ever met – Sound familiar. But of course, her parents really wanted her to marry a Catholic. Oh well. What an Italian cook Mary was. I often drove from Worcester MA to Lawrence to see Grace and eat a Sunday dinner. Price of admission attend church. Byproduct of my visits – Grace typed my Masters thesis. My advisor at Worcester Tech personally thanked her because now he could read my writing. Recently Father Rogers visited Grace and gave her communion as had Pat Kotkin before at home. Unfortunately, she could not remember any of it but they will attest she knew she was receiving the Host.
Grace amazed me during our time together in that she hardly ever got upset, complained, set unreasonable goals, got mad for long or was overly emotional EXCEPT when Kathleen and Brian arrived. She immediately became an experienced, joyful mother. We were proud and blessed with Kathleen’s marriage to Frank and their resultant 6 beautiful and talented children which someone onetime said “you are now married to a grandmother”. She knew their birthdays and never missed one until last year. Now I’m guilty of missing Kat’s birthday and anniversary, gosh do I miss Grace. Grace was really the backbone of our family guiding our lives with confidence and humility. There is no question that the Holy Spirit/God played a huge role and development of her being which she passed on to me and our kids. She was very comfortable in her own skin, confident in her daily life and interactions with others.
AND THEN Brian drove his Impala into a tree. Grace called me at work and said this is it! Brian is on the way to Brandywine hospital. Get home we are going together. Brian ended up first in Jefferson University hospital and then Magee Rehab. Grace visited both hospitals every day - not an easy drive. Jeff Hellrung gave Grace a portable phone in case of problems driving up. Not once did she need it as her focus was intense. Clearly, Grace’s visits not only kept the staff’s eye on the ball but her talks to Brian those 3 awful months provided some continuity for when he awoke. Her focus then was competently on Brian which allowed me to go back to work. We modified the house and he was able to use a power chair “out and about” as he would say. Graces interactions with Brian were exemplary the minute he came home mostly looking for ways he could have a meaningful life. The late Wendy Wick, one of his dear attendants, became very close to Brian and with Grace. For awhile he got his head on straight until bed sores and multiple hospital stays piled up. He died on June 14, 2015 the worst day of our lives – UNTIL NOW.
Gracie died at Arden Courts Wilmington DE last Monday the same day one of her oldest local friends in Kennett, Jean O’Neil, called to see if she could visit Grace that week which she had done several times before. Jean and Kathleen were instrumental in crafting the Obituary, collecting photos and picking readings and music and both forced me to stay “with it” for other details of the funeral. Unfortunately, Grace tested positive for covid a week ago Thursday and was confined to her room for 10 days. When I left on the Monday afternoon after walking and “tv-ing” with her, she was alert and seemed happy in her surroundings. If she had not been quarantined she might have been in a common TV room with others! If I can quote from her mother Mary “it’s Gods will”. And so, life continues without my best friend, sole mate, her holiness and acceptance of her dementia but will continue with Kathleen, Frank, Mary Paige, Erin, Frankie, Nolan, Jamie and Crosby.
And, all of you attending today.