ORANGE — Nedra Smith, age 99, died quietly at the Sabine House on April 5, 2014. She was five months short of her 100th birthday.
Nedra was born on September 2, 1914, in Tupelo, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of E.C. and Lula Breedlove, and was one of eight children. In 1924 when Nedra was 10, her father, who was a banker, decided to move the family from rural Oklahoma to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, a long trip by even today’s standards. There were four children in the family at that time, and the trip was made by automobile over primitive roads. The family settled in San Benito, where Mr. Breedlove began a long and distinguished banking career, which culminated in the ownership of the First National Bank of Harlingen, the largest bank in the Rio Grande Valley. Nedra graduated from high school in San Benito, and in her senior year she met the love of her life Wilburn Smith, who had moved to San Benito from Timpson in Shelby County. They fell in love, and were married in 1933. Times were bad because the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, but the young couple persevered, Nedra working as a legal secretary, and Wilburn in various sales jobs, mostly in the Rio Grande Valley. With the onset of World War II, the couple first worked for a large Valley based Construction Company building air fields all over Texas, and later for Dow Chemical in Freeport. At the end of the war Wilburn, who had maintained contact with two of his brothers during the war, met them in Orange after they were discharged from the service, and they began the family business on Green Avenue which later became Smith TV. Wilburn, John and Paul Smith were in business for 36 years, and at the beginning Nedra worked as a secretary in the construction department at DuPont while the plant was being built. After the business got on its feet Nedra became a stay at home mom, raising her two children, Jack and Scott. She was very active in the First Baptist Church of Orange as a Sunday School teacher, W.M.U. leader, and youth worker. Nedra was an avid bridge player, and loved horticulture. She was a founding member of the Leaf and Petal Garden Club, and later became a certified flower show judge. Nedra traveled all over Texas judging flower arrangements at various garden club and flower shows. Her interest in horticulture and flower arranging was a very interesting hobby, but Nedra’s best job was being the quintessential homemaker and mom, a job that is rare in these very different times. She loved her family, not only her children, but especially her brother and sisters, most of whom remained in the Rio Grande Valley. Family highlights were the long trips that were made to visit her brother and sisters and mom and dad every year. Long periods of time during the summer were spent in the valley, and especially at family beach homes on South Padre Island which was a highlight to both Jack and Scott.