Rosemary Smith has been a very busy woman these past 40 years, but that’s just how she likes it.
“I’ve always worked, and I would not miss it for anything,” she said. “I love people and I think keeping busy and being active will keep you young.”
Smith is originally from El Paso, and ended up in Roswell in 1962 when her late husband was transferred with Southern Union Gas. They moved to Galveston, Texas, for three years before moving back to Roswell in 1972.
Since then, she’s been very active in the community, mostly with the Saint Peter Good Samaritan program. Smith is also very active in Saint Peter Church, where she serves as a eucharistic minister, setting up schedules and assisting during Mass. When she first moved to Roswell, they lived closer to Saint Peter and after enrolling her children in the school, she said it made sense to volunteer there. She recalls that an explosion at the local fireworks factory is what led her to jump into action at the church in 1972 and start helping those in need. She said she also did a lot of survey work for Arbitron working the telephones. She also ran a day care when her children were younger. When she wasn’t running her day care, she was volunteering at the library of the school her children were attending.
What has kept her going these past 40 years? Simply the desire to help those in need.
“The love of my fellow man [keeps me going],” she said. “I could see the need for so many people who were looking for help, so many people who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.”
During her tenure at Saint Peter, she’s had the opportunity to see programs and organizations such as the Good Samaritan program, Lend-A-Hand and the Community Kitchen come into existence to better serve the community. She said establishing those organizations alleviated some of the pressure felt by Saint Peter to try and provide for the entire community on its own. Smith added that food is the most essential thing that can be donated because “when you don’t have enough food to eat, I don’t think you can do anything else.”
Over the years, Smith said she’s noticed an increase in the number of elderly people coming in for assistance, which makes her that much more grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon her.
“I’m very thankful that I’m able to do what I’m doing, basically because my husband and I had planned, and I’m very frugal,” she said. “I feel that God has blessed me so much that I want to give back my many blessings.”
The thought of helping others survive is what keeps Smith and her co-workers going day-to-day. “All of us there see the need, and it’s so gratifying,” she said before noting the program helps on average, 25-30 families a day. She said without the help of her many devoted volunteers, she would not be able to operate the Good Samaritan program. Due to the somewhat strenuous nature of the job, it’s hard to retain volunteers, so she is so grateful for those who have stuck by her to help.
To continue her charity work day in and day out, she said she relies on a high power to renew her strength. Because God is the center of her life, she said she begins each day with prayer. In addition to her morning prayer ritual, she attends Mass daily, to ensure she is fed spiritually before she goes to help feed others. Her work isn’t limited to normal business hours as she also visits the sick and shut-in on weekends.
When she’s not fixing plates, she’s collecting them. In her kitchen is a visual display of the travels she and her loved ones have taken. She has some plates from friends and relatives who thought about her on their trips, and many from adventures she’s taken herself, including one to the Holy Land with a friend. Afterwards, she revisited Germany, where her father and maternal grandparents were from and where she had visited as a small child. She was able to reunite with various relatives who still lived there and sightsee in surrounding areas such as Austria.
Today, she likes to embark on adventures in her own backyard. Smith said she enjoys riding her bike and walking her dog around her neighborhood. During her rare downtime, she enjoys visits from her family members. She has a total of five children, 11 grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren, whom she loves despite generational differences.
“The thing that’s been amazing to me is that it’s hard for them to realize that I don’t see and understand the same things that they do,” she said laughing. “Especially the younger one, they think that grandma should be able to relate to some of this music and some of that that’s going on.”
Her goal is to continue spreading the love of God throughout the community through her service. Though she’s been on her own since the passing of her husband in 1980 she said, “I’ve been very fortunate that I could do all these many things and enjoy my grandchildren as well.”