MADISON - Helen K. Smith died on April 24, 2021, at Agrace Hospice. She was born July 19, 1924 to Reverend Lars and Amanda Nesvig in Stoughton, Wisconsin, and her life was imbued with pride in their heritage as Norwegian immigrants. She graduated from Stoughton High School and received a B.S. in Home Economics from UW-Madison, finishing first in her class. She met Jim, her husband of 55 years, when they were both still in high school. Their love endured separation when he deployed to England during WWII. Together they raised a family of five children, first in Hales Corners and later, on a farm near Waterford. They retired to Naples, FL and had a cottage near Algoma, WI. When she turned 90, Helen moved to Madison and lived the last nearly 7 years of her life at Oakwood Village.
Helen, a home economist and homemaker, worked as a teacher, regional director for American Field Service, and CFO for the family business. She taught lessons of love and civic responsibility to her children as an early ecologist in practice, a civil rights activist, volunteer in Immokalee, FL to support migrant workers, and a political campaigner. She was a prolific correspondent with family and friends until her last days.
Helen’s faith was the cornerstone of her life. She was an active member of the Caldwell Methodist Church and Moorings Presbyterian Church in Naples. She ministered to friends old and new, teaching her family vividly the parable of the loaves and fishes with a table and home that always had room for more.
Helen’s family was a source of enduring joy. She is survived by her five children, Stephen (Jeri) Smith of Racine, Barbara (Charles) Lawton of Madison, Kristi (Jeff) Zahn of Green Bay, Peter (Valerie) Smith of Chapel Hill NC, and David (Lisa) Smith of Eagan, MN; her ten grandchildren, Justin (Amanda) Smith of NYC, Lindsay (Aaron) Banman of Omaha NB, Erika Jenson Smith (Lucas VanEngen) of NYC, Amanda (Scott) Lawton Krupp, Joseph (Sarah) Lawton of Madison, Matthew (Julie) Zahn of Alexandria VA, Maya (Tison) Zahn Rhine of Madison, Eric (Bridget) Smith of Bloomington MN, Lauren (Tom) Sandman of Eagan MN, and Jeffrey Smith of Seattle WA; and her great-grandchildren Kira and James Smith, Miles, Andrew and Hans Banman, Molly and Max Krupp, Bella and James Lawton, Nicholas, Henry, and Catherine Zahn, Andrix and Cameron Rhine, Ada Smith, and Frank Sandman; and many beloved nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jim Smith; her parents; four siblings; and a nephew.
A memorial service will be held at Oakwood Village Chapel at a later date. The family is profoundly grateful to her compassionate caregivers at Oakwood and at Agrace. Memorials of remembrance may be given to the school in Guatemala, La Escuela Jim Smith, which is a mission of Moorings Presbyterian Church in Naples, FL, Agrace Hospice Care, or the Oakwood Foundation.
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