By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
My lasting image of Rosie Smith is a string of pretty ribbon.
Mrs. Smith, the consummate recreation program organizer and volunteer, died Wednesday, June 25. She was 76 years old.
Mrs. Smith was well known in the Welland community for her work especially with Welland Recreation Projects Association.
This goes back a few decades. Our paths crossed in the early 1970s and connected many times over the years.
Welland was blessed with volunteer recreation groups doing magnificent work in local neighbourhoods. Who can forget Northwest Recreation Activities Centre, Sherwood Recreation Activity Centre, Dain City Recreation, Southend Neighbouhood Committee and perhaps one or two others.
But Welland Recreation Projects Association, which she spearheaded, was granddaddy of all. It provided programming on a city-wide basis. Back then, it planned and organized the Santa Claus parade, Welland Winter Carnival, Welland Winter Carnival Queen Contest, Family Day, Canada Day in Memorial Park, Halloween costume parade for children, Easter Bunny visits for children, Toys for Tots Christmas Concert, even Santa Claus visits through neighbourhoods in Welland.
The group held meetings at Winstonville Hall on Wavell Court. The daily newspaper covered these meetings from time to time to stay in touch with what the group was planning for Wellanders and to get word out in occasional feature stories or photos.
Attendance at meetings varied, from a half a dozen to a dozen-plus members. Mrs. Smiith, however was one of the constants: she was always there, always one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. She was a sparkplug with unbounded energy and infectious enthusiasm.
Though all the group’s initiatives were important to her, one that was close to Mrs. Smith’s heart was Family Day in St. George Park. It was based in her stomping grounds, the Welland South neighbourhood. At one time Family Day attracted hundreds and hundreds of families to the sprawling park at the end of St. George St. A big part of it, years ago, was the annual swim meet, one that had a large following. This was due in no small measure to the efforts of Mrs. Smith and her husband, Steve, who had started a swim club there years ago.
Mrs. Smith gave selflessly to making Welland a better place, especially when it came to children. She wanted equal opportunity for all to take part. Over many, many years she was part and parcel of a volunteer recreation group that looked after Welland as whole. But she was more than that.
Rosie Smith was the pretty piece of ribbon that held it together.
The Smith family will receive friends at J.J. Patterson and Sons Funeral Residence, 19 Young St., Welland, Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Vigil prayers will be offered Sunday at 2 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Monday, June 30 at 10 a.m.
(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. Lasting Image appears on the blog from time to time).