A beautiful person left this world Sunday.
LoAnn Smith was a dear friend and giving soul who always flew to engulf me in a big hug and made me smile and laugh when I saw her every spring on jaunts to her and her husband’s greenhouses, Glenburn Gardens.
I was the standing joke every year. My small car could only hold so much — I had to guess whether I’d picked up too many plants — and so I made at least three or four trips every spring to get everything I wanted or needed, sometimes asking for this or that item to go on hold until I could return the next time.
For the past few years, husband Dick has been growing really big tomato plants in 5-gallon buckets and I have been stuffing them into my car, which only made LoAnn laugh herself silly at me and Dick, who was determined I could fit at least two at a time.
“There’s room for two, Janine,” he’d say. “We’ll make it fit.”
It was even funnier when I had to roll down the backseat window to manage the second one.
I met LoAnn at the Bangor Daily News, where she worked for a number of years, although I only really got to know her after she and Dick opened the greenhouses. She worked days and I worked nights, so rare did the twain meet. However, Dick, also a BDN employee for years, and I go way back to when I started work here more than two decades ago and was learning how to lay out pages. Dick pasted them up, which is how things were done in the good ol’ days when the BDN had a composing room and every page in the paper was put together by hand much like a puzzle but with all the pieces changing size, shape and content every day.
As it turned out, Dick had quite the knack for growing stuff and LoAnn had a knack for showing it off.
She loved the colors of the flowering plants and often had Dick grow something just because it was pretty. It might not sell well because odd plants seem to scare people off, but those were usually the ones I bought two of just because.
Most every spring, she’d have some new project on display or for sale at the greenhouses. One year she painted tiny little terracotta pots, and I got a turquoise one ringed with a garland of leaves and berries. It has held paperclips on my desk at work for years and always brings her to mind when I reach for a paperclip.
Sometimes, I’d just drop by to say hi. Last year it was to show off my new dog, Kai. LoAnn recognized he was afraid and sat down on the edge of a flowerbed, making of him and telling him how handsome he was.
We often commiserated about our animals, for she and Dick were dog lovers, too. Their pets were spoiled, much-loved and always underfoot in the greenhouses, following the pair of them about or just stretching out in the warmth to be had inside a toasty greenhouse. There was always a dog bowl full of water and a box of bis-cuits to be had.
As I read LoAnn’s obituary in Monday’s paper, I felt her presence keenly. She took such great joy in her family and friends. Every word reflected her happiness in just living life by loving it and the people who were part of her world. It wasn’t about making a name for herself or gaining position or power. It was about growing colorful plants to make life more beautiful for the people in her world. It was about cooking her favorite things for the people in her world. It was about being interested in the people in her world.
I will honor her request, so simple and so LoAnn.
She asked that people attending the service Saturday wear “a splash of color.”
As time goes by, I will add that splash of color wherever and whenever in my world, my friend, and I will think of you.