The Auditorium at the Vets building was dressed in Jozelle Smith’s favorite color; lavender tablecloths were topped with purple orchids on the tables that filled the room. People filled the room as well; old friends, family members, sisters of the Ya-Ya sorority and lots and lots YMCA members.
Jozelle was a woman who was so ubiquitous to civic life in Culver City for so many decades her connections numbered in the thousands, and the crowd at the Vets on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 was a small fraction of the lives she touched. She liked to joke that her unique name gave her an edge on getting people’s attention, but it was more than her name; she was simply unique.
The table offering a guest book and ‘memory’ cards kept the entrance bottle-necked, as everyone – seemingly everyone – had a favorite story to share, and write down in deep detail.
The Celebration of Life Service opened with some music from Sylvia & The Rhythm Boys, giving the afternoon an energetic lift, and prayers were offered by Pastor Jim Maines of Grace Lutheran Church. After a reading from the gospel, John 14, 1:6, the pastor candidly offered a memory of Jozelle telling him “Pastor Jim, you talk too much about the Bible.” She did not attend the church, but Ken Smith, her husband of almost 65 years has been a committed member of the congregation. While Jozelle might have raised an eyebrow over the New Testament readings at her service, she would not have been at all surprised.
Her long catalogue of accomplishments – from the mayoralty to the 1984 Olympic Committee, government and service club positions – was noted several times. But more important than any title or position, her pleasure in gathering people together was what people came back to again and again, a loving refrain.
Remembrances were shared after a memorial video, and those who spoke told their tales of her energy, her love of organizing adventures and outings, and her creative passions. Her most famous television role – as a corpse on “The Walking Dead” – was about as noteworthy as background actors can get.
Of course, her years as our calendar columnist on Monday mornings at Culver City Crossroads were our own special memory, and several of Jozelle’s readers in attendance talked about reading eagerly every week to see who was having a birthday, and what was going on.
She will be missed, but all the good she created will live on. Anyone recollecting Jozelle will not be called on to clarify who they are referring to; there was only one.
The family requests that donations be made in Jozelle’s honor to Grace Diner at GraceDiner.org