The Story of Felton and Margaret Smith
As I sit down to recount the legacy of James Felton Smith and his wife, Lily Margaret Smith, I am moved by the deep roots and intricate branches of family trees. Has there ever been a better legacy of love and wisdom?
Their story is one of enduring love, intelligent planning, and a commitment to family that transcends time and continues to inspire. I am forever grateful to have played my small part in the family.
James, known by those who love him most as Felton, was a man whose life was a testament to the power of innate intelligence and craftiness. Without the formalities of higher education, he possessed a sharpness and adaptability that could rival any trained professional. His career as a factory mechanic was marked by the same ingenuity and resourcefulness that could have easily led him to a path of engineering. Lily Margaret, a steadfast partner and nurturing figure, contributed to the family’s well-being by working as a lunch lady. Together, they raised six children in a modest three-bedroom, one-bathroom house that, despite its size, was an expansive reservoir of love and warmth.
Their story takes an amusing twist with namesakes. Lily Margaret, born a Smith, married a Smith, and this Smith legacy continued through their daughter Tywana’s marriage to me, Brian Smith. This delightful twist of fate is a charming footnote in our family history, underscoring the strength and continuation of our lineage.
The dedication of James and Margaret to their family was evident in both grand gestures and everyday acts of love. James often attended Tywana’s basketball practices after long and tiring workdays. His presence was a steady source of support. Their six children never doubted their parent’s love. Margaret and James raised them in a modest, three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. But it never felt crowded in the many years I visited them there, even with all the in-laws.
Margaret’s midnight “Milky shakes,” laboriously stirred with a simple spoon, was her love poured into a glass, a testament to her unwavering care and affection for James. What greater love is there than getting up at 1 or 2 AM to make your mate a milky shake (never milkshake) with a spoon? I’m pretty sure Margaret never owned a blender.
Their foresight and meticulous planning were as much a part of their legacy of love as their love for each other. Long before the need arose, they visited a funeral home in Springfield, arranging every detail of their eventual departure. They picked the headstone, chose the plots, and paid for everything.
This act, a blend of pragmatism and profound love, ensured that their children would not be burdened with arrangements during a time of grief. They transferred their house, the humble abode that hosted countless family gatherings, to Tim and Tywana, securing a financial future for the family. Felton wasn’t a trusting man. But he knew he could trust the children he raised to take care of him and Margaret, and he wanted to be sure that what he saved for the family was preserved.
James’s passing, followed by the years of care for Margaret, never once strained the family financially, a testament to their thoughtful planning and investments. Even after their passing, the resources they left behind continue to provide for the family, a final, loving gesture from two lives well-lived, taking what they earned and stretching it brilliantly.
The story of the Smiths is also a story of reciprocity. Tim and Tywana, recognizing the care and sacrifices their parents made, found themselves in the role of caregivers as they navigated the complexities of dementia care for Felton. I remember making phone calls trying to find a locked facility for dementia patients in Kentucky. It was nearly impossible. Felton was a runner and a fighter. It was challenging. But Tim and Tywana showed the family’s tenacity and got it done. In their journey, they honored their father’s legacy, ensuring he received care that matched his dignity and spirit. Miraculously, they found a private home run by two angels. James was able to live there until he was immobile. It was on a farm, surrounded by the beautiful Kentucky countryside. He only ran once.
I have to acknowledge Tim and Tywana. But first, I have to point out another Smith family quirk. James Felton was known as Felton by those closest to him. James was what his co-workers and others called him. Lillie Margaret always preferred Margaret. Tim is James Timothy, never called James. Always Tim. Margaret’s namesake Margaret Michelle Smith is Shell. Mark Kelly Smith is Kelly. Only Tywana and her brothers Eric and Derrick use their first names. Even William Jeffrey Smith, a stillborn triplet, is forever known as Jeffrey.
Tim and Tywana worked tirelessly to support Felton and Margaret. After Felton passed, Margaret lived independently for a few years until it became apparent she could no longer care for herself, her dog, and the house. We tried to convince her to move closer to us into a retirement community. But her stubborn, independent streak kept her there longer than she should have been. I recall the day she called during one of the girls’ swim meets. She was crying, saying she was ready to move. Tywana and Tim sprung into action, calling the place we had already chosen for her and getting her in by the next weekend. Tywana and Tim worked flawlessly as a team, taking care of financial arrangements and Margaret’s every need literally until the hour she made her transition.
Tomorrow, we go to Holy Rosary church, the church Margaret attended before marrying and converting Felton to Catholicism. It’s the church I visited when I made trips to Springfield. The last time I was there was at Felton’s celebration of life a dozen years ago. This will likely be my last time there as we draw a close to the end of what Felton and Margaret started over six decades ago. I recall many Christmas midnight masses where Margaret hustled us out of the house at 11:30 to make the five-minute drive to get a good seat in the tiny sanctuary. Margaret would never be late for church!
As I reflected on this family, I felt I could hear Margaret and James encouraging me to write a tribute to Tim and Tywana. But I could not leave Margaret and James out of it. What comes to mind are the words, “Your watch has ended.”
Felton was dedicated to Margaret and the kids and ensured he cared for them while he was here and beyond. His hard work and careful planning allowed Margaret to live comfortably for another dozen years. Margaret took care of the kids, who, in turn, took care of her. Tim and Tywana took the handoff and finished caring for Felton and Margaret. Now, Felton and Margaret can rest. And Tim and Tywana can know they performed their duties well. To James and Margaret, your watch is over. But also to Tim and Tywana. I know it will be strange for a while not having those duties.
Christians read in the Bible that the words you want to hear at the last judgment are “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I believe Margaret and Felton have heard those words. Tim and Tywana, I know they want you to hear them now.
The legacy of James Felton and Lily Margaret Smith is a rich tapestry woven with love, intelligent planning, and a steadfast commitment to family. Their story, marked by shared laughter, sacrifices, and forward-thinking, inspires and guides us. We carry forward their legacy, hoping to impart the same values and strength to the next generation of Smiths. Their lives were a testament to the enduring power of love and the importance of family. Their lessons will resonate through our family for generations to come.