Josephine Ann Smith Ogden

By Orleans Hub Posted 17 January 2020 at 11:19 am

Josephine Ogden

Josephine Ann Smith Ogden, 88, of Hermitage, Tenn., died Dec. 30, 2019 following a brief illness. Born April 1, 1931 in Hardwick, Mass., Jo, as she preferred to be called, was the daughter of Gerald A. and Dorothy A. (née Hathaway) Smith. Raised in Natural Bridge, N.Y., Jo graduated from West Carthage High School as a member of the class of 1948. Following graduation, Jo worked briefly for the local Carthage paper before relocating to Syracuse, N.Y. to pursue a career as a legal secretary. While in Syracuse, she met and wed her husband, Barnett Ogden, on Oct. 5, 1961. Their marriage lasted until his death on April 8, 1998. The newlyweds relocated to Buffalo, N.Y. shortly after their marriage, and their first son, Matthew Smith Ogden, was born there in June 1962. Two years later, the family moved to Albion, where their second son, Laird Andrew Ogden, was born in September 1965, and where Jo remained for 30 years until after she was widowed. Jo relocated to Hermitage in October 2003 to be near her dear friend from childhood, Elsie Gardner, and Elsie’s three daughters and their families. While in Hermitage, Jo met many new and caring friends and neighbors who looked in on her frequently. When she was no longer able to live alone, her son, Laird, relocated to Tennessee to provide loving care so that she was able to remain in her home until the last week of her life.

An avid reader and advocate of lifelong learning, Jo instilled those attributes in both of her sons and, at age 55, she pursued an associate degree in early childhood development and was certified with a CDA credential in July 1987. Always an advocate for children, Jo worked for 20 years in the Head Start program, beginning as a classroom assistant and later an assistant teacher, receiving a Lead Teacher certification from the High Scope Educational Research Foundation and additional certifications from Genesee Community College. Upon her retirement from Head Start in October 1992, she received a Certificate of Appreciation from the State of New York, signed by Governor Mario Cuomo.

Jo believed that we all should contribute to society and our communities. Shortly after moving to Albion, she joined the Young Women’s Service Club and, later, TWIG – charitable organizations which benefited the local Arnold Gregory Memorial Hospital. She and her husband both served on the Board of Directors of the local Swan Library, and both were instrumental in establishing a Visitors’ Center for families visiting relatives incarcerated at the Albion Correctional Facility. Jo was continually promoting “peace on earth” and received certification in the Alternatives to Violence Project, a project of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). She would proudly recall walking in a world peace march for nuclear disarmament in New York City in 1982 and for many years displayed the banner that she carried that day.

Raised in the Methodist Church, Jo spent most of her adult life as a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Albion, where she was ordained as a Ruling Elder in 1980. In later years, she also explored the Bahá’í faith, but she always retained her Christian identity while respecting the religious beliefs of others. She found spirituality in nature as much as she did in church and spent countless happy hours each summer communing with nature in the rock garden that her husband built for her.

Jo was a creative soul who loved the arts. She was a self-taught painter who became well known in the Albion area, winning first prize for her impressionist painting of cattails in the 1969 Arts Festival at the Pullman Memorial Church in Albion. In later years, she would receive several commissions for works, although she preferred to “paint her feelings,” and her best works were often seascapes or natural scenes. She also dabbled in ceramics and enjoyed encouraging her sons, and later her pupils, in arts and crafts projects. Her love of painting and reading was equaled by her love of music. While in high school, she was a member of the chorus, and she could often be heard singing around the house, whether to her children at bedtime or to a favorite song playing on the stereo. Although she enjoyed all types of music and introduced her sons to many different musical genres, she was partial to folk music, jazz and the blues. Concerts given by Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and Neil Diamond were high points in her memory. Most recently, last year, she was able to attend Baez’ Farewell Tour at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Jo is survived by her eldest son, Matthew Smith Ogden and his husband, Jack Bernstine; younger son, Laird Andrew Ogden; brother, Douglas Smith and his wife, Joan; sisters, Judy Whaler, Gale Graham and her husband, Charles Graham, and youngest sister Lynda Gapp; as well as many beloved nieces and nephews. Lifelong friends, the family of Elsie and Arthur Gardner, especially daughters Shari, Deirdre and Diane, are family in every way except bloodline and did much for her during her 16 years in Hermitage.

Cherished neighbors Tim and Maureen Lupe, Chip and Patty Prece, Rick and Becky Britt and many others of the Lake Chateau Community gave much love and assistance through the years. Her sons would like to recognize and thank the doctors, nurses and staff of the Fourth Floor of Summit Medical Center and of Alive! Hospice for the outstanding care and compassion they showed to their mother during her last days on earth.

A celebration of the life of Jo Ogden will take place in the spring, with details to be announced. Donations in her memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders, or to your local food bank.