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Thelma Elizabeth Smith

Thursday, December 21, 2023
	Thelma Elizabeth Smith

Thelma Elizabeth Smith passed away peacefully Wednesday, December 13, 2023, in her Bryan home, surrounded by her family. Thelma was born in Tonkawa, Oklahoma on September 19, 1932, to Gladys Loretta (Ward) Fairless and Henry Eugene Fairless. She grew up on a farm just outside of Tonkawa. She met a boy named Olin Dail Smith in church, and they both attended Tonkawa public schools. A few months after Thelma graduated from high school, she and Olin married on September 5, 1950. While Olin worked on his father’s farm, he also began attending college – first at Northern Oklahoma College, and then at Oklahoma State University. Thelma supported him by working at a soda fountain in the local drug store, and later at the OSU Library in Stillwater (where she and Olin lived in married student housing). They also started a family, with Brenda, Brent, and Beth all being born during this period. Olin completed his PhD at the University of Minnesota, with Thelma managing the household, and also serving as his clerk/typist, faithfully typing out every version of his dissertation on a manual typewriter.

Olin and Thelma moved their family to Bryan, Texas in 1970, where Olin began serving as Texas A&M University’s very first peanut scientist. His research took him far afield, and it wasn’t long before students from all around the world (most from Africa and South America) were coming

to TAMU. Ever the best hostess, Thelma loved opening her home to Olin’s students around the holidays, and some of the family’s fondest memories are of Thelma figuring out the right menu for her guests, and how hard she worked to make them feel at home when they visited. Thanksgiving dinners were a smorgasbord of different kinds of food and at least eight different flavors of pie! During this time, Thelma also worked in TAMU’s Financial Aid Office, before being recruited away to work in the student loan division of the Texas Aggie Federal Credit Union. She and Olin were also faithful members of First Baptist Church, Bryan, where they led the Young Married Adults Sunday School department for many years. An avid seamstress, Thelma taught sewing lessons and loved being part of the quilting guild. She made countless dresses for her daughters and granddaughters during those years.

When Olin passed away suddenly in 1999, Thelma turned her full attention toward her six grandchildren. She always cracked them up with quirky sayings, like “whatever” (in her sweetest voice), “fiddlesticks,” and “shucks a button.” Knowing the value of a college degree, she helped pay the tuition for her grandchildren, each of whom earned a bachelor’s degree (in addition to two master’s and a PhD). After a few years, she and Brenda moved to Oklahoma to be closer to Beth and Brent. In addition to doting on her grandchildren, Thelma continued sewing and quilting. She was also a faithful member of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. When Brenda and her husband Danny moved back to Bryan, Thelma joined them, moving into The Parc at Traditions, where she lived until her passing.

Thelma was the shining example of how best to live a Christ-centered life. She loved to read her bible, and to read Christian-based fiction and non-fiction books. She had a fervent prayer life, and when she said she was praying for you, she really meant it. Thelma led a women’s bible study in her home for years. She also donated her sewing skills on several projects that benefitted her church, and children’s support organizations (domestically and abroad). She loved to laugh, and to tell stories about the old days. No one loved life on the farm more than Thelma, and she especially loved being at the family farm (which Brent ran) for harvest. She was an incredible cook, but it always seemed like her best meals were served on the back of a pickup truck out in the wheat field. She and Olin also loved gathering with her extended family at the annual Smith Family Christmas celebration. She was dependable, loving, devoted, compassionate, devout, and just “nice.” She always saw the good in others and was ever ready to jump in to lend a hand.

Thelma was predeceased by her husband Olin, a son Mark (who died at birth), her son-inlove Danny Jay, a brother (Ernest Fairless), and four sisters (Arlene McBride, Esther Sims, Dorothy Thomas, and Lucille Poppy). She is survived by daughters Brenda Jay of Bryan, TX and Beth Damphousse (Kelly Boy) of San Marcos, TX, and her son Brent Smith (Kelly Girl) of Tonkawa, OK, grandchildren Monica Deal (Ryan) of Denver, CO, Melanie Ward (Phillip) of College Station, TX, Mark Smith (Annabelle)