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A cup of joe and Cleo Smith was good to go

August 03, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Elizabeth C. Smith, who died July 23 at the age of 72. Her obituary was published in the July 26 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Elizabeth "Cleo" Broadus Smith's extended family gathered to talk about her recently. Before long, two common threads began to emerge - cooking and coffee.

Cooking was her profession most of her life. And coffee, ... well coffee held the distinction of being Cleo's passion.

"We'd drink coffee and talk," said her oldest daughter, Aloha Broadus. With her mother working two jobs most of her life, those times were precious and few.

When Aloha was growing up, Cleo worked in the snack bar at the former Two Guys Department Store and in the kitchen at the Red Horse Steak House.

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"She'd go to one job, come home and then go to the other," Aloha said. During those hardworking years, Cleo entrusted Aloha and her siblings to the care of their grandmother.

Still, Aloha said her mother always made it to the events in her life.

"She was very strong in her faith, though she often didn't have time to go to church because of her work," Aloha said. "But she'd always say, 'God will take care of it.'"

Cleo had one son and five daughters. Three of her daughters still are alive.

A member of Sharon Temple 160 of the Elks Lodge since 1952, Cleo once went with Aloha on a bus trip to Kentucky sponsored by the lodge.

"The other people on the bus were going to the Kentucky Derby, but Mom and I just talked and drank coffee when we got there," Aloha said.

At Cleo's funeral, daughter Tonya Smith read a poem, while another daughter, Sonia Broadus, spoke of her mother's penchant for playing the lottery.

"Sonia talked about how if mom ever won the lottery, she was going to take her on a cruise," Aloha said.

Cleo worked in the kitchen at Mack Trucks for more than 20 years and in the kitchen at The Broad Axe for more than 10 years.

When she wasn't cooking on the job, she was cooking at home.

"She cooked and everybody ate," granddaughter Monique Broadus said. "Her macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and spare ribs were all the best."

Grandson Fernando Broadus described his grandmother as a woman with great character.

"She was a loving and giving woman," he said.

"Grandma was very humble," grandson Jerome Broadus said. "Even when things were hectic, she was cool with it."

Jerome added that when it came to Cleo's cooking, he was a fan.

"I tasted everything she cooked," he said.

With family friend Dale Burnett, the roles were reversed.

"I made the sweets, and she'd do the tasting," he said, referring to his cakes and other confections.

Contacted by telephone, great-granddaughter Anastasia Broadus said Cleo's nickname for her was "Annie." Her comments were laced with her love of her great-grandmother's liver and onions, gravy and "yum-yum" macaroni and cheese.

Cleo never asked for help, something the family had to deal with at the end of her life.

"Mom wouldn't tell us how she felt," Aloha said. The Sunday before she died was the first time that the family knew that something was wrong.

"She always said she didn't want to be a burden," Aloha said.

Cleo passed away four days later on July 23 at the age of 72.

Granddaughter Shawnta Keefer balanced her 2-year-old son, Aceion, on her knee.

"Grandma turned me on to coffee," Shawnta said as she popped the top on a bottle of iced coffee.

Before long, Aceion - nicknamed "Boxer" by his late great-grandmother - was tugging on his mother's arm for a sip of the caffeinated treat.

Perhaps later, the family said, they might settle in and talk some more about Cleo - preferably over a cup of coffee.

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