Norma ‘Jo’ Smith
July 28, 1925 – Sept. 5, 2018
Norma ‘Jo’ Smith died Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 at South Peninsula Hospital
She was called to her heavenly home, peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones, while at the hospital where she was being gently cared for due to complications from a stroke, her family wrote. She was 93 years old.
Jo Smith was born in Slick, Oklahoma July 28, 1925 to Willie and Gilbert Claunch, the oldest of 10 children.
Jo married when she was 14 to Jim Wright, and they had a daughter, Aloma Suella. Leaving Oklahoma they moved to California where she helped support her parents and their large family. Jim and Jo divorced, and later she married Ned Anderson. They continued to live in California until Jo and her best friend Dottie decided to move their families to Alaska in 1950.
Jo’s life went through many changes including another divorce, and the gift of her son Russ, but each one led her closer to her family which again changed when in 1960 she married John Smith. She was working on the Alaska railroad as a waitress and he as the cook. In time, they quit the railroad and opened the 5th Ave Café. Three years later, they sold the business and began operating a rooming house for the BIA, for native girls who were going to school.
In 1965, they owned and operated the San Su San Smorgasbord, (where kids could eat for a penny a pound). They sold in 1969, and they spent time working in various communities in the bush and on the slope.
From 1970-72, they operated one of the first halfway houses for the Department of Corrections. They moved to Seward and owned and operated the Breeze Inn Restaurant and Motel until selling in 1977, but returned to manage the business for the then current owners. In 1985, they spent time working as camp cooks in Barrow, and enjoyed walking the beach and looking for old mammal bones and fossils.
In 1990, she and her family moved to Bethel where they managed the kitchen of the Kuskowim Inn. In 1992, they moved to Homer, where they owned and operated the Smith Family Restaurant, and the Windjammer Suites Motel. She was a very hardworking woman.
Jo was known for her outspokenness. Never shy about offering advice, and words of wisdom, many gained from the “hard knocks” experiences of her early life. She was generous and had the gift of hospitality, offering a meal or bed to those less fortunate or in need. She had a way of enriching the lives of those she came into contact with. She loved her family and her Lord and savior Jesus Christ. She will be greatly missed by the many that loved her.
She is preceded in death by her parents, her husband John Smith, her daughter Aloma Suella Gunderson, and several of her brothers and sisters.
She is survived by her son Russ Smith and his wife Karen; daughter Jonnie Yager and her husband Terry; many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren; as well as sisters and brothers, and many dear friends, all of who are better because of having her in their life.
Memorial services were scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7 at Homer Independent Baptist Church, 3614 Forest Glen in Homer, Alaska.