It wasn’t long ago that I wrote about her husband, J.B., and his impact on my life. It was only a few days ago that I heard that Mrs. Johnston was suffering from ALS. And now, her battle is over.
Reading about her, there was one thing that caught my attention. It was the fact that she worked as a secretary for 26 years at Canton Elementary School so she could be close to her kids. Thousands of students were no doubt touched by her. More than she knew.
And then I thought about my own elementary school days. While Canton was privileged to have a woman of Mrs. Johnston’s character, North Canton Elementary was equally blessed to have a woman of great character in that of Betty Smith.
Mrs. Smith is married to Lloyd Smith. When she was at North Canton Elementary working for Lee Roy Tippens, I am not sure what her exact title was. And it doesn’t matter.
But her job consisted of administrative duties in addition to performing the duties of mother, grandmother, nurse, counselor, friend, and any other duties as they became called for. Very much like Mrs. Johnston was at Canton Elementary, Mrs. Smith was one of the unsung heroes at North Canton Elementary.
We hear so much about people that hold positions of power. We hear about the triumphs of principals and teachers. But rarely, if ever, do we hear about the impact made by people like Mrs. Smith.
As an adult, it is easy to look back and make a relatively simple observation. Lee Roy Tippens was a great man and a great principal. But had he missed a day, we would have just carried on.
However, if Mrs. Smith missed a day, there was a great chance something bad would happen and couldn’t be fixed without her.
I have never known of the Smiths venturing far from north Canton. On Sundays you will find them worshipping behind the old school at North Canton Baptist Church.
And it is with the same love that she had for her students at school that she shows toward those that go to their church. I know this because as an adult I have been there many times in days past and gone. She showed me the same love as an adult as she did when I was a child.
It was no doubt that great love she found at church that made her so valuable to the thousands of school children she took care of every day.
North Canton Elementary is no longer a school. But when it was, much of its success can be contributed to Mrs. Betty Smith. Without her it wouldn’t have been the same. I wonder just how many boo-boos Mrs. Smith fixed in all her years at the school.
I feel sure many schools had their own Betty Smith or Kate Johnston. At least I hope they did. And without regard to what anyone else might think, it is people like those two that made parents feel good about leaving their children at school.
For what Mrs. Smith has can’t be learned in a classroom of higher education. No, her gift to the students came from her experiences of life. It came from her heart that is to this day filled with the love of her Maker.
And when I was in school, it was OK for her to tell us where her love came from. To do the same today would probably get someone sued.
I have never known Mr. or Mrs. Smith to seek the spotlight or recognition for the things they do. And I am pretty sure that they haven’t. Because in today’s world, if they did, somebody would tell.
North Canton Baptist Church is blessed to have this wonderful couple in their midst. And even though they are a couple that doesn’t seek the limelight, there is no telling how much work that both of them do to make their church everything God wants it to be.
When I think about it, it saddens me that the very people that make this world go round are not recognized. It’s a shame. So let’s tell them of their impact while we still can.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.