March 9, 1945 – February 20, 2022
Fanny Benton Burns Smith, age 76, went to be with Jesus on Sunday, February 20, 2022.
Fanny was a loving, kind, gentle but strong daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, coworker, and teacher, who was an excellent listener. She never met anyone who did not soon share their innermost thoughts with her. She genuinely cared about others and quickly took their burdens as her own.
Losing her mother at age 12 to tetanus, while a student in her mother’s sixth grade class at Petersburg Elementary School and her dad a few years later served to form a sense of compassion for those hurt by life’s struggles. She truly understood hurt and the need for safe comfort for the emotionally injured. This trait enabled her to serve many people.
She worked for 35 years at Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Much of that time for her good personal friend, Evelyn Watson. She also worked in the Safety Department for Bob Kapolka, and Tom Wantland. In each position she served as an effective interface for each group. In February 2020, Fanny presented her work experience to a special Vail, Colorado, Roundtable consisting of people who were outstanding in their fields. As usual, she won the hearts of the group and was able to share ORAU’s far-reaching missions with an audience who did not know about but was fascinated by Oak Ridge’s nuclear history.
She married her high school sweetheart, Ray Smith, and they spent 57 years in a wonderful loving marriage of pure joy. Much of her energy went to raising her two boys, Mike, and Zane. She took great pride in them as they grew up and even more so as they became men and created families of their own. Her seven grandchildren were pure delights to her. They loved her and knew she loved them. Granny was a special person in their lives, and they all loved to come to her “upside down” house in Oak Ridge.
Her years at Highland View Church of Christ were spent in service teaching children, leading parenting classes, participating in ladies’ classes, retreats, and many other ways to serve Christ through helping others. She humbly served as an elder’s wife for 34 years. Her influence is shown by a comment by a mother who said, “Fanny taught me to listen to my children, regardless of when they wanted to talk…even late at night.” Fanny did spend many a night responding to her sons who knew to come to the bedroom and whisper, “Mom, do you need a drink of water” and regardless of the hour, she would say, “Yes,” and get up to listen to them talk for hours at a time, often into the early morning hours.
Fanny suffered for 30 years with Sarcoidosis, a chronic auto-immune disease that attacked her bronchial tubes and lungs. She was on the steroid, prednisone, for 20 years and endured its side effects with a spirit that caused many to not know she had such a burdensome and lingering illness. As with the rest of her life, she helped many understand the intricacies of living with chronic illness through speaking at numerous auto-immune disease support group events and by producing a webpage of her struggles with sarcoidosis. Fanny was always ready to answer questions about this disease of unknown origin and for which there is no real effective treatment, only the struggle to breath. She required supplemental oxygen the last year or so and stairs were difficult for her. Yet, she never complained nor stopped trying to live as normal as possible. Even with her limitations, she enjoyed traveling and exploring national parks with her husband and family. A trip to Alaska when the boys were teens was a favorite memory.
Her last battle with post COVID complications on top of her underlying long-term illness was just too much for her lungs. Yet even then, while in the hospital, she won the hearts of doctors and nurses who cared for her. Her month-long hospitalization on two occasions was a series of serious complications. Dr. Wonder Drake, with whom Fanny did several clinical trials studying sarcoidosis was a constant friend. She assisted in Fanny’s hospitalization by expediting her through crowded emergency room situations because of Fanny’s depressed immune system and visiting her almost daily. She was a blessing and is a good friend. Many other staff persons at Vanderbilt served Fanny well and allowed her husband to stay with her constantly. When the teams evaluated her condition, they sought input from her husband because of her unique circumstances with sarcoidosis and long-term steroid treatment.
Fanny was preceded in death by her father, Ermin Curtis “Jake” Burns and her mother Mattie Cashion Burns. She is survived by her husband, Ray Smith, sons Mike (Kacy) Smith and Zane (Laura) Smith, seven grandchildren, Jake Smith, Logan Smith, Sam Smith, Luke Smith, Kate Smith, Kade Holman, and Kobe Holman, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. Additionally, Fanny is loved by many friends, school mates, coworkers, and Oak Ridgers. She lived in Oak Ridge for 51 of the 57 years she was married and proudly served her country by supporting her husband’s tour of duty in the US Air Force in Vietnam.
Visitation with the family will be held on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Gallant-Riverview Funeral Home, 508 College St W, Fayetteville, TN. Funeral services will be held at Gallant – Riverview Funeral Home on Thursday, February 24, 2022, at 10 AM with retired minister Graham McKay presiding. Burial Will Follow in Medium Cemetery.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Highland View Church of Christ, 138 Providence Road, Oak Ridge, TN, on Saturday, February 26, 2022. Receiving of Friends will be from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM and the Celebration of Life will be at 2:00 PM with minister Levi Dodd presiding.