On May 17, 2014, Janet Gayle Smithers slipped the bonds of Earth and passed away at the age of 68, following her brief, but valiant battle with leukemia. Both her husband and daughter were at her side in her final moments.
She began her life's journey in Gonzales, Texas, born on Feb. 1, 1946, to A.J. and Jonnie Mae Blanton. As a young child, her family moved to High Rolls, where she spent her school years. Her primary school was a one-room building on the mountain and she completed her middle and high school studies in Alamogordo. She loved school and was an avid learner. "Gayle", as she was known by friends and family, was not only academically gifted, but also blessed with a beautiful singing voice. She graciously shared that gift with family and community during special events. She attended New Mexico State University where she earned two degrees in business-related fields.
She became an honored teacher, spending most of her professional career teaching business at Las Cruces High School. She retired in 2000. She always loved teaching and frequently marveled that she "never worked a day in her life". For her, teaching was joy not work. She had great regard for her former students and delighted in watching their lives develop beyond the classroom.
Gayle lived in Las Cruces for more than 40 years. She loved her community, but more than anything, she adored her beloved husband Bill. For all who saw them together, this was always evident from the way they looked at each other to the way they cherished one another. Their love was deep and profound. To be certain, Bill was the great love of her life. He freed her heart, enabling her to love at a whole new level. Her greatest legacy is in fact, her love.
Gayle was actively involved in her sorority, the Omega Masters chapter of Beta Sigma Phi. Her sorority sisters were amongst her best friends. She served, loved and laughed with them. She looked forward to every gathering with the girls. These ladies always knew how to care for each other, and Gayle took both pride and pleasure in being part of this uplifting and supportive group.
Bill and Gayle were also known for burning up a dance floor. They were marvelous ballroom dancers. At Gayle's mother's 80th birthday party, they danced to the classic, "Waltz Across Texas" as a special gift to Jonnie Mae, who reveled in watching them swing and sway across the room. In fact, when they purchased their house, a primary consideration was that the living room be large enough to dance in.
Another passion was the performing arts. She and Bill held season tickets to the symphony and community theatre. It was because of their frequent travel to Ruidoso to attend performances at the Spencer Theater they ultimately bought a home there which she lovingly referred to as their "play house." They truly enjoyed their mountain home and formed close friendships with their neighbors.
Another special activity that Gayle and Bill shared was playing bridge. Gayle had actually never played bridge prior to marrying Bill, but she quickly rose to the challenge and excelled at the game. They were members of the Belton Bridge Center, and traveled widely to participate in tournaments. As loving and unassuming as she was, she had a brilliantly strategic mind, and bridge was a perfect fit. She attained the designation of Silver Life Master in a remarkably short time. She loved the game, and the people she met in the process.
Gayle had the ideal heart to be an amazing grandmother. Her three grandchildren, Brian, Julia, and Lauren, were blessed to be loved by her. She treasured them, showering them with attention and affection. Even though they were separated by geography, she would call them constantly and send cards and gifts at every occasion. She did not let distance hinder her from knowing everything going on with her "little darlings." She always gave generously from the heart, and if they knew nothing else, they knew they were loved by their grandma.
She was a teacher to the end --but not always in the classroom. Much of what she taught, she did by example. She embodied a spirit of kindness, always grateful for the gifts and blessings in her life. She gave loving words freely. She had one heck of a sense of humor and could always find the bright side in every situation. She threw great parties and did so frequently. Her love was deep and undeniable. She lived with meaning and purpose. The life lessons she shared are innumerable and will continue to impact the world, even in her absence.
Gayle is survived by her loving husband, William Smithers, and his four sons, two daughters, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren; her devoted daughter and only child, Patricia Townsend; her three grandchildren, Brian, Julia, and Lauren Martin; her brother Wayne Blanton and his wife Janie; and her dear cousins and nephews. She also leaves behind her two dogs, Molly and Trixie, whom she considered family.
Services in memory of her beautiful life will be held at La Paz Grahams Funeral Home at 555 W. Amador in Las Cruces. On Friday, May 22, a visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m., and on Saturday, May 23, a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. She will be laid to rest at the Masonic Cemetery.
La Paz - Graham's Funeral Home - Las Cruces
555 West Amador Las Cruces, NM 88005
Published in Alamogordo Daily News from May 22 to June 21, 2014