Community service is life story for Smiths

Editor’s Note: Gems of the Valley is a regular feature of the The Parkersburg News and Sentinel/The Marietta Times highlighting residents who do wonderful things for the community. Nominations can be sent to 519 Juliana St., Parkersburg WV 26101, faxed to 304-485-5122 or emailed to editorial@newsandsentinel.com

VIENNA – For Barbara and Bob Smith community service isn’t a catchphrase, it’s a way of life.

“Bob and Barbara have quietly helped out with an incredible variety of area things for more than the 30-plus years that I’ve been privileged to know them,” said Judy Sjostedt, executive director of the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation.

The Smiths have been recognized as Gems of the Valley, a series profiling residents who make the community better.

Sjostedt said the couple has provided help and leadership to many groups ranging from Parkersburg High School Crew to the Black Diamond Girl Scout Council, Stout Memorial United Methodist Church, Local School Improvement Councils, Parkersburg Art Center to the Junior League of Parkersburg, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, and years ago to Emerson School PTA and the former YWCA.

“You name the group, Barbara or Bob or both of them have probably donated to it, volunteered to help it, or served it in some sort of beneficial way. And all the while, they give you the feeling that they’re having a good time while serving others; they truly fit the definition of a community gem to me,” Sjostedt said.

“They are definitely not in it for their own visibility but rather for the greater good,” she said.

Barbara, who worked for about 12 years with the Wood County Adult Basic Education Learning Center, and Bob, who is retired from Corning Glass, feel public service to the community where they were born and raised is a calling.

“The good book says help your neighbor and that’s what we try to do,” Bob said.

Barbara said she and Bob feel they have been blessed in their life, so they just want to give back.

“There are many others in the community who do a lot more than we do,” she said.

For Barbara community service began early.

“I was picked to serve on a student committee for the Red Cross back when I was a student at Emerson School, that would have been back in the late 1950s. Then when I was in high school I became a water safety instructor through the Red Cross. I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and later served on the board of the Black Diamond Girl Scout Council board of directors in Charleston. One of the benefits of being a volunteer is that you get to know all kinds of people from all over,” she said.

She also served as the board president of the former Parkersburg YWCA.

Barbara said the couple often draw each other into their activities.

“I got Bob into peeling potatoes and cooking sausage for a food booth at the Harvest Moon Festival,” she recalled.

Bob, who enjoys painting and drawing as a hobby, still has gallery showings of his works throughout the area. He teaches classes at the Parkersburg Art Center and has volunteered to judge art shows. He attended the Cincinnati Art Academy after his military service, and initially thought about a career as a commercial artist, changed his mind, but retained an interest in art. He also donates some of his watercolors to various local fundraising events.

A Korean War veteran, Bob was part of the Peacekeepers after the war. Bob’s father was the commander of the 1092nd Engineering Battalion, Parkersburg.

Both were involved for many years with the Parkersburg Crew Team boosters, since both their daughters were in crew.

“We went to every meet, home and away, and I was president of the boosters for two years,” Barbara said. “Some of our most fond memories are getting up at 6 a.m. and fixing breakfast for the crew kids. We’ve always been involved with activities our kids were involved with – crew, band, school carnivals, Model United Nations,” she said.

“Volunteering keeps my mind active, I have other things to think about besides myself. The most important thing though is that you get to meet all kinds of people that you would not ordinarily meet. I’ve made some wonderful friends through volunteer work,” Barbara said.

“It is rewarding and sets a good example,” Bob said. “You help someone else and they appreciate it, and it also makes you happy.”

Barbara said she’d like to see everyone who has been helped through volunteer efforts to go back into the community and pay it forward.

Barbara is a sustainer in the Junior League of Parkersburg, serving as president in 1991. While in Junior League she worked on the Blennerhassett Island Park project including helping research the furnishings for the reconstructed mansion.

“I really enjoyed that experience, I was privileged to meet and make a lot of really good friends through that project. I also served for three terms on the Blennerhassett Historical Commission. I was pretty excited about that project, I was a history major in college so it was exciting. We traveled to Boston, Williamsburg, looking at other projects, I learned a lot,” she said.

Barbara also served on the board of directors for the Parkersburg Day Nursery for about 12 years.

“It tells us in the Bible, if we have gifts, we should share, including our time and talents, and sometimes people see things in you that you may not see yourself, and they ask you to be involved. It’s an honor, and as a result I’ve been involved with some great organizations” she said.

She and Bob are both involved with Stout Memorial Church. She has taught Vacation Bible School, and served as Mission Committee chair, while he is on the United Methodist Men’s organization and mission projects.

“Bob has painted backdrops for church plays and things,” Barbara said.

Barbara also served on the Local School Improvement Council. She was a member of Altrusa and while serving in that capacity she helped start Literacy Volunteers of West Virginia, and the Literacy Volunteers of the Mid-Ohio Valley. She serves on the Henry Logan board, as well as the boards of FaithLink and the Colonial House.

She is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, James Wood Chapter, and Bob is a member of the Capt. James Neal Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

The couple has two daughters, Lauren, who lives in Florida, and Chrissy, who now resides in Georgia. Both daughters are married and each have one child.