Sunday, July 22, 2018

Nadine Capwell Smith

Mrs. Nadine Capwell Smith, 85, died Sunday, July 22, of Alzheimer’s Disease at her daughter’s home in Columbus, Mississippi. Funeral services will be held at 1:30 P.M. on Friday, July 27th, at First Baptist Church in Louisville. Visitation will be Friday at the church from 12:00 noon until service time. Interment will be in Pittsboro Cemetery in Pittsboro, MS. Porter Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

She was born at home in Pittsboro, Mississippi, to Glen Allen Dorsey Capwell and Alice Riddle Capwell. She was the second girl in the family, and she adored her big sister, Hazel. Soon two more girls, Patricia and baby Yvonne, arrived. Dorsey said he didn’t care about his female dominated household –“boys were just a lot of trouble anyway.”

Nadine and her sisters went school in Pittsboro. Nadine was quiet, even timid, and did not like to recite poems or answer math questions in a classroom full of her peers, some who made fun of her gold rimmed eyeglasses, the cleft in her chin, and even her unusual surname. But her teachers recognized she was very smart, and began to give her little chores to do in the classrooms. Nadine loved being like her teachers—neat, organized, low-voiced, and kind. By the time she graduated from high school, a year early, she was her class’ salutatorian, one of few girls with aspirations for a college career.

She had gained confidence between six and sixteen, because of several reasons—a blossoming beauty, success in her school work, and growing talents in music and art. When she was 13, her mother paid for Nadine to take piano lessons; by age fourteen, she was playing all of the hymns and “specials” for every service at Pittsboro Baptist Church,

Her success in her schoolwork persuaded her parents that Nadine should go to Blue Mountain College and study to be a teacher. At first, Nadine wanted to be a nurse, but her mother said that occupation was too physically hard, and not very ladylike. What Nadine didn’t know was that her parents were saving a little every month for her education. On graduation day, she learned that her first semester at Blue Mountain College was already paid for. The day her mother left her at college 100 miles from her home, she told me later, “I cried and cried when I looked out the dorm window and saw mother’s little car driving off toward home. I wanted to go BACK!”

Although it was hard to believe that a garment worker and a sawyer could save any extra money at all, Alice came up with the tuition to pay for every semester of the three year teachers’ licensure program. By age 20, Miss Capwell was teaching second grade at Bruce Elementary School, enjoying the job and some financial independence. Everyone who’s ever known her understands that Nadine gave away most anything she had. With her first teacher’s salary, she bought her parents another car, so that Dorsey didn’t have to catch rides to work in Bruce everyday. She delighted in buying cute high school majorette costumes for Yvonne, who was so pretty that she glowed. She was on her way, saving her money, thinking that maybe she’d study for another degree later on. But one March afternoon, fate intervened.

Sam Ellard Smith, World War II veteran, MSU engineering graduate, a man Nadine had known all her life, one March day saw Nadine in a different way as she walked from the store across the square toward home. He pulled up beside her and said, “Young lady, would you like to drive all over the county and look for daffodils?” It didn’t take Nadine a second to change the trajectory of her life by accepting that car ride. Neither of them ever forgot that first date. On July 23, 1956, Nadine and Sam, with the approval of all the family members, went to the preacher’s house and said their vows. It was only a few hours later that they headed off to a “honeymoon” of sorts, to move into their new apartment in an old house in Aberdeen where Sam had been working for the state highway department. Sam’s mother, Pauline, saw her boy as still a child and laughed a little as she saw his suitcase. That night she wrote in her diary: “Well, Sonny Boy bought a nice new set of pajamas for his honeymoon trip, certainly a wise decision.”

Sam’s job moved them to Batesville, Mississippi. In just five years, all their children were born, Bridget Ann in 1957, Sam Ellard Jr. in 1959, and Susan Capwell in 1961. They were dirty, rambunctious, loud, ravenous and destructive children, but Nadine and Sam loved them anyway.

The Smiths moved to Louisville, Mississippi in 1963 when Sam took a job with Taylor Machine Works. They lived on Park Street by the graveyard and Nadine raised her children with care and good cooking. She made her daughters’ clothes and taught all three children good manners. She made sure the children did their homework; she joined the Junior Auxiliary, taught Sunday School and Bible School, and began to expand her sewing talents to include home decoration. She and Sam planned for the day when they would build a house in Louisville. Sam opened his own Consulting Engineer’s Office, and Nadine helped him there, even learning how to draw plats based on Sam’s surveys.

The children had a rich church life resulting from the marriage of two “agree to disagree” professing Christians – Sam was Methodist, and Nadine was Blue Mountain/Ridgecrest bred Baptist. The girls went with Nadine to the Baptist church, and were properly immersed. Sammy went to the Methodist Church with Daddy, and was sprinkled right before his confirmation.

By the time all the children were in school, Nadine was asked to teach kindergarten at WA. She felt her skills were a little rusty, and WA used a curriculum that she hadn’t worked with, but she agreed, and it was the second round of her life as a teacher. Nadine especially loved “the babies” and she was their advocate. She thrived in that roomful of little children, and discovered that any new curriculum can be balanced with caring and sensitive teaching. For 23 years she saw the kindergarteners walk out of her room into first grade. Many, many of them have recently contacted her children saying “Your mother saved my life,” “Your mother made me love school.” “Your mother never had a favorite child. She loved everybody, and she believed everyone could learn.” She was good. She was kind. She made differences in lives. As described by poet Paula Fox, she was that teacher who “when asked which subjects she liked to teach,/She answered this way and smiled.../It’s not the subjects that matter.../it’s all about teaching the CHILD.”

At about this time, her widowed mother began to show disturbing signs of dementia. The decision was obvious for mother. She could not let anyone else take care of her mother. She retired and moved to Calhoun City. She and Daddy took care of grandmother for nearly six years there, from Alice’s being mobile to bed bound. Then, the children ganged up on Nadine, who was wearing herself out, and urged her and Daddy to move back to Louisville, bringing Alice with them. Three years later Alice died of Alzheimer’s, with her family around her.

Within a year Sam also began to show symptoms of Alzheimer’sDisease. The family all recognized the signs by now. Nadine determined to keep him at home, and she did, for three years, until he no longer recognized her at night, and the children were worried that he could hurt her. She fought this advice, and when the children moved him to the nursing home for a six month stay, she spent every hour with him, and told him good night when she had to leave, and cried every time she went home. As his death neared, Nadine brought him back home This time her children could help her, as Sam moved from earth to heaven. After Sam died, Nadine had a few brief years to enjoy her friends, her church, and her grandchildren, Nicholas John Pieschel (Anna), Laura Pieschel Rose (Paul), William Dorsey Pieschel (Saki), Alexander Smith Pieschel, Alice Pauline Pieschel, Margaret Capwell Smith, Mary Eleanor Smith and Samuel Steinriede Smith. And she loved it when her great grandchildren began to appear: first Thomas Carter Rose, then Eliza Catherine Pieschel, then Toma Jimbo Pieschel, and now little Oliver John Pieschel.

But she could no longer stay alone, and all of her children had busy jobs, so they picked out one Alzheimer’s unit, where she stayed about four and a half years, and then another, in which she lived a year. The last three months of her life she was with her daughter Bridget and son-in-law Steve in their home. They, with the help of Hospice and kind caretakers, gave her a peaceful death. She leaves a family grieving at her loss, but rejoicing that she is whole and healthy again in heaven, reunited with Sam, and hugging her much missed parents.

Nadine was polite, gracious and generous. But she was a warrior for children. She is the model for the type of person who is considering teaching as a profession, for as Saint James says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”(3.1)

Nadine did her duty. She was a model of love, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. She loved all the children. At her judgement, she will not be found wanting, and will earn the coveted teacher’s golden apple given to those who not only did THEIR best, but THE best.

Memorials may be made to Winston Academy, P. O. 545, Louisville, MS, 39339; or First Baptist Church, P. O. Box 547, Louisville, MS, 39339; or The MIND Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.