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Julie Susan Rogers Smith, 1933-1999

A good sister, a good mother, a good person. We will miss her.

Portrait of  Julie


 Win's 1970 portrait of Julie.
Julie and Allan were still living together in Cheyenne when Win did this portrait in 1970.


I. How Nice She Was

Julie and I were always the quietest of the family, which made it sometimes hard to communicate with each other as much as we'd both have liked. But when I was growing up, I always thought of Julie as the most sociable of all of us, and certainly the most glamorous as well. She had so many friends! She was in junior high! She was a member of a sorority! (When she went to highschool, anyway. The greek letters on her black-and-gold pin, which looked to me as though they spelled EON, actually stood for Sigma Delta Nu.)
      Furthermore, she'd taught herself to play the piano! I can hear her at the old upright that was wedged into a narrow area at the foot of the stairs at Grams's house. Playing "The Old Lamp Lighter." How lovely it sounded.
      A piano was her first major purchase when she managed to save a little money from her first job after highschool, and it went with her in all her moves. Just a few months ago she had it tuned when Kami showed an interest in playing -- its first tuning (according to Winibee's recollection) since Cheyenne.
      Julie was probably the most naturally musical of us all. Gifted in a lot of other ways, as well. Like most of us in this family, she was picky about words and comfortable with numbers. Like Winibee, she threw herself into puzzles and liked to exercise her brain.

      Julie and her children
      After the divorce, Julie moved back east with her children. They were living in Columbia, Maryland, when somebody (Win, I suspect) took these photos at Jackie's house at Thanksgiving 1981.
      Julie had had a mastectomy a year before, but by the time these photos were taken she was doing fine. It seemed as though she'd escaped it free and clear.
Julie and her son

      All of my sisters have had so many talents. What a shame they didn't get to go to college!
      Well, maybe it's not a shame. I know Julie would have done much better than I in college. But it was important to her to stand on her own two feet, so she went out and worked instead.
      In her twenties she worked at Bolling Field, and Joey remembers her at that time trying to help him become a social being -- "trying to help me become normal," as he put it -- by bringing him to some parties with her when he was back from MIT. At the end of his sophomore year she drove up to Cambridge and carried him back in a convertible, stopping in New York on the way so he would have the experience of seeing a Broadway play. She sprung for the hotel and the tickets to the play, and he remembers how taken he was by the generosity and love she showed.

II. Allan

      From Bolling she advanced to a job at the Andrews Air Force Base officers' club, and it was there that she met Allan Smith, a navy air commander twelve years older than her, whom she married in March 1962. "A lovely guy," my father wrote to a friend at the time. (He thought he might have met Allan's father, who was in publishing, years earlier in New York.)
      Allan had five children from his first marriage, so for Julie the marriage was a crash course in mothering. The children, Bobby, Nancy Jo, Linda, Patty, and Carol, ranged from thirteen to six years of age, and the oldest girl, as you would expect from all your psychological knowledge, detested Julie. At least at first.
      A difficult situation. But Julie, as her own children at least can attest, was a wonderful and devoted mother.
      (I don't know what has become of those five stepkids --who have long ceased to be kids but will always remain so in my mind -- now, though I think Carol still lives in Cheyenne. I think Julie also kept in touch with Robert, the eldest, who was a medical aide in Vietnam and And I know that in July 1990 [after visiting her son in Dayton, Ohio, and her friend Norma in Indiana] Julie stopped in to see Patty in Bloomington, Indiana -- the first time she'd seen her in twentyone years. At that time Patty had been married for eleven years to the former police chief of Bloomington.)
      Julie and Allan followed his navy job to Cadillac, Michigan, and when Allan retired from the navy, they moved first to Springfield, Virginia, and then to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
      Maureen and I stopped by for a visit on our way across the country when Joel was a baby. Cheyenne seemed a bleak outpost where the wind never stopped blowing. You could pick up a sixpack at the drive-through window of the liquor store. But it was a nice visit. Julie and Allan's two children played with the baby, and Allan and Julie took us out to look for arrowheads. Allan was hot to go off to a wilderness area of Idaho he had heard about where there was reputed to be plenty of gold. When he talked about this dream he was so convincing that I was on the verge of picking up my backpack and sleepingbag and trekking off there with him. He seemed such a pleasant guy. How astonished Maureen and I were to realize that he was over fifty. Over fifty! That seemed ancient to us then, and I hoped with all my heart that if I ever managed to reach such an advanced age I could appear as young as Allan.

III. Alone with Two Children

      After the divorce... Well, the divorce came about in the standard way: Allan traded Julie in on a later model, a troubled barmaid ten years younger than Julie, and flew off with her to one of the happy isles in Puget Sound.
      When Julie's loving little girl wrote to her father, the letter was returned unopened. Refused by Addressee.
      (When I outlined the facts of this story to my friend Roger Skillings, he was appalled, as people invariably are. "Imagine the mind of such a man!", he said. "It would take a Thomas Hardy to do justice to the story!"
      (It still seems inconceivable that Allan would have returned his daughter's letter like that. More likely it was his jealous new wife. According to Julie, when Allan was sick in the 1990s Robert was going to come see him, but his wife refused to allow it -- afraid that Robert might be positioning himself to make a claim on Allan's estate.)
      After the divorce Julie moved back to the DC area with her two children and found a place in Columbia, Maryland.
      Years later, after her kids were grown up and successful in all ways, Julie sent Allan a postcard thanking him for having left her. Always before she'd thought of herself as strong and independent, but during the marriage, she said, she'd lost those qualities. After it was over she taught herself to be strong and independent again.

      Win moved in with Julie in August 1984, a couple of months before my father died, and lived with her till she went into a nursing home herself in the fall of 1989. Here are the two of them around Christmas 1986. Julie still seemed free of disease.
      Win was in the midst of writing her memoirs then. Later Julie embarked on her own memoirs.

Julie, Win

 Jackie and Julie in July 1996.

Joey sent me this photo of Jackie and Julie at her daughter's wedding on July 4, 1996. A week and a half later Jackie was gone. I came east to Winchester, Virginia, in the fall and saw Julie and her kids several times before heading back to California.

      And now I have to say this: In July 1993 the doctors discovered some more tumor activity, and for the next six years Julie was fighting off recurrences of cancer. But she remained as determined and upbeat as usual. "I'm pretty optimistic about things. I don't give up too easily."
      That was the way she went about her life. She wanted to be independent, and was strong, proud, and determined right up to the end.
      Her oncologist, her daughter told me afterwards, said that most people in Julie's situation would have succumbed in 30 to 36 months. Julie managed to survive for six years through sheer will power.
      The oncologist also said she was one of his favorite patients. She always had a positive attitude and he never heard her complain. And after her death he told her daughter, "The world won't be as nice a place without her here."

* * *

      A few months before Julie's death our cousin Mary Crutchfield wrote me and said, "Julie is such a neat lady!"
      After hearing from Julie's son on August 14, I called Mary to let her know. "Julie was the grown-up, glamorous cousin I wanted to be like," Mary said. "I always thought she was so beautiful and strong. And I said that to her, that she was a beautiful person and I had always wanted to be like her. I don't know if she really understood that. But it was true. She was somebody I really wanted to emulate."

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Copyright 1999–2005 T. N. R. Rogers. All rights reserved. Last revised 31 dec 2005.