SACO – When Gail Smith decided that she wanted to stay at home with her children, her home became open to more than just her own.

“Wherever we were, there was always a bunch of kids. Our house was the house everybody went to,” said her daughter April Smith.

Mrs. Smith, who became widely known as “Grammie,” died Monday at the age of 62.

“She was my high school honey,” said her husband of 44 years, Leslie Smith.

Remembering their first date, while they were still students at Wells High School, he said she started the pattern of catching more fish than he did.

While he and his friend put on their waders and collected their gear, Mrs. Smith went down to the bank and caught a 13-inch brook trout before the two boys could even cast a line.

“We fished hard all day” that day, he said, but they were not about to top her catch. “She liked to fish, no matter where we were.”

The couple continued fishing together as they moved for his assignments in the Air Force from northern Maine to Florida, Texas, overseas to Turkey, Maryland and then back to Maine.

As they moved from military base to military base, Mrs. Smith developed her love of cooking and mastered many ethnic dishes.

While in Florida, she learned many Philippine dishes from other military wives. In Turkey, she became adept at Turkish cuisine, her husband said.

Her daughter said she made a “mean lasagna,” but her special no-bake cheesecake recipe is what lives on in a Louisiana restaurant.

“She had made it for this party,” her daughter remembers, and all of the women pestered her to divulge the recipe, but she refused.

“She finally gave the recipe to this guy who had a restaurant,” and he started making it instead of his baked cheesecake, she said.

“He was down where it was hot and he didn’t want to be cooking if he didn’t have to,” she said. He made Mrs. Smith swear she wouldn’t give the recipe to anyone else. “It’s the big secret family recipe.”

Many children came to her house simply because they loved her cooking. She baked cookies for them or invited them to meals. Her daughter said Mrs. Smith would sit and color with anyone who was visiting, and always had gifts for everyone around the holidays.

As a military wife, she developed hobbies around where they were based. When stationed in Presque Isle, she took up curling — a sport she showed quite the knack for, her husband said.

On every base, there was a “hobby shop” where she would paint ceramics. Her husband said she made many gifts for her friends and family. With a love for Christmas, she painted an entire nativity scene for her family.

“One time this woman offered her $1,000 for the whole thing,” her daughter said. “But she wouldn’t sell it.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]