Bobbie Jo Smith Wesson died last week. She was only 67, but her years made a tremendous impact on many people.
Bobbie will be missed the most by her husband Bob and her two children, Clay and Elizabeth. Her beautiful granddaughter Charlize will grow up only knowing her through photographs, but every time she struggles, someone can encourage her by sharing examples from her grandmother’s life.
Bobbie will long be remembered by the hundreds of kindergarten students she taught through her lengthy career. She loved them, learned all she could about the best ways to teach them and gave them a solid start on their way to becoming productive adults.
I remember when Bob and Bobbie started dating. The laughs were numerous when it was pointed out that her maiden name was Smith and his last name was Wesson. So many gun references. And, there was another man in our church with her same name, Bobby Joe Smith, who headed up the Boys’ Ranch at that time. Then along came this new Bobbie Jo Smith. We all had to be sure we were talking to or about the right Bobby Joe/Bobbie Jo.
Bob and Bobbie were a perfectly-matched pair. Both die-hard Auburn graduates and fans. Both devoted to their faith and to their families. Bobbie didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so she was immediately adopted and swept up into Bob’s group who were long-established in Hartselle. They enjoyed parenthood. I wasn’t around Clay and Elizabeth during their growing up years, but I remembered Clay as being very bright and precocious and Elizabeth as being so pretty and “all girl.” Bobbie loved showing friends Elizabeth’s wedding photos. Clay now lives in Oregon, and Elizabeth is in Birmingham. It’s clear that Bob and Bobbie gave them both strong roots along with the freedom to fly their wings.
Steve and I were landing in Ecuador to begin serving as missionaries the month that tragedy struck Bobbie. She had a massive stroke that greatly impaired her mobility and her speech. I heard about all of it via emails from friends back in Hartselle and remember adding my prayers to all of theirs. Her condition was very grave. It was a miracle she survived.
I only heard stories about Bobbie’s long, hard battles to regain some semblance of normalcy. It must have taken ENORMOUS determination and drive on her part to relearn the skills of walking and talking — even to the limited extent she was able to manage them. Yet, I must admit that the first time I saw Bobbie when we came back, I was shocked at the toll the stroke had taken on her physically. For 17 years more, she lived with the after-effects of that stroke, but all of us who knew Bobbie consider those 17 years as a gift.
Steve and I moved back to Hartselle in the summer of 2017, so I had the true pleasure of being around Bobbie again for two more years. Those years with Bobbie made a difference to me — just as the years she had with so many others must have mattered to them.
Every time I saw her walking into church, I was reminded to walk straighter and without complaining about any small aches or pains. It must have taken a Herculean effort for Bob and for Bobbie to get her ready every Sunday. Yet they were there consistently and faithfully. My efforts before arriving were pitiful in comparison.
Watching Bob’s patient, loving, kind care for Bobbie meant the world to me. What a stunning example of selflessness. It gave me hope that I could one day do something like that for Steve or him for me if our situations ever called for such care. Bob, if you’re reading this, you were (and still are) an unmatched role model for all of us.
I was in Bobbie’s home this summer, and she was in mine — thanks to the summer house church events that we have. We both fretted some over how many people to expect and what we might serve for supper. She chose chicken salad croissants, and I chose stuffed potatoes. Yes, Bob and her neighbor Susie helped a lot, but Bobbie was a gracious hostess, clearly happy to have all of us in her home. Again, a role model for me. She did what she could without complaining and with a generous, kind, gentle spirit.
Because Bob was in the same Sunday School class we attended, when the class went out for lunch once a month, Bobbie joined us. While Steve and Bob talked about Auburn, Bobbie and I talked about our children and grandchildren. She never failed to ask me about my children and marveled with me about the number of grandchildren I had. She was SO VERY HAPPY when precious Charlize was born and wanted so much to be a part of her life. My own mother died when my children were very young. Both Bobbie and my mom are clear reminders to me to treasure every time I’m with my grands and to invest in making memories.
Bobbie’s words were kind and affirming. I never heard her utter a negative comment. It was sometimes frustrating (mostly for Bobbie, I’m sure) to wait until she could get out the words she wanted to say, but EVERY TIME, it was worth waiting for. This morning I’m just wishing I had another time to sit and talk with her. I wouldn’t be in a hurry. I’d just want to wait . . . and listen . . . and soak in her kindness.
I am just one of hundreds who were blessed by the life of Bobbie Wesson and will miss her presence and her example of goodness and courage.
I believe Bobbie understood these verses better than almost anyone:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:10
My essay about Bobbie appeared on Al.com on January 29, 2020. Read it here. https://www.al.com/opinion/2020/01/one-teacher-five-inspiring-lessons.html