Joanie’s life began March 18, 1928, in Benton Harbor. She enjoyed being a lifelong area resident where she raised a family, worked and played. Joanie worked for over 30 years for Watervliet Community Hospital in Environmental Services.
Aside from being a wonderful citizen, and dedicated employee, she was a true friend to everyone who knew her. She was a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. For the almost 26 years I knew her, the lifelong friend we all knew and loved went by “Nana”
While some only saw her on her weekly trips to the Blue Chip, bingo, and the grocery store, myself, and my brother Nolan saw her daily. Nolan would lay on the floor listening to nanas Celine Dion CDs, while I would sit with her and watch her favorite shows. Everything from The Price Is Right, to her 4 hours of soap operas(and believe me, I was just invested in those shows as she was), Little House On The Prairie, Bonanza, and Gun Smoke.
Nana was one of the most important role models in my, and many others lives. The time I knew her, she stood no more than 5’4” but carried the attitude, and fighting spirit of a giant. Often referred to as “one tough old bird” she captured the true meaning of “she is little, but she is fierce”
The side of nana that I, and many others saw was that of a more kind, understanding woman. Although she was tough, she was just as quick to be gentle and caring. Nana had the best hugs, the best laugh, and best smile. She Always knew when to crack a joke, as well as crack the whip. Hailing from the greatest generation, she Always believed in “yes ma’am” and “no sir” but just as much, if not more believed in always say “I love you” before you leave.
Always a caring home with open doors, holidays were filled with just as much love and thought. The tables were filled with turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, and the absolute best deviled eggs. Much like the tables, our bellies were full of food, and conversations filled with joyous laughter.
She leaves behind a loving family to cherish her memory including: two sons Kenneth of Watervliet and Bill (Linda) of Florida; four grandchildren Terri, Billy, Angie, and Christine; numerous great and great great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Nana, mom, aunt, grandma, great grandma, Joan, Joanie.. She was known by all of these names, but most importantly, she was the best friend ANYONE could have ever asked for. She loved each and every one of us just as much as the last, and loved her community equally.
Joanie died Monday, August 24, 2020, at Spectrum Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph. Her husband James E. Smith, parents Nicholas and Evelyn Panagakos, and four siblings Bonnie, Athena, Elaine and Ted precede Joanie in death.
Friends may visit with Joanie’s family Friday, August 28, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM at Hutchins Funeral Home in Watervliet. Visitation will be followed by a graveside service in Watervliet Cemetery. You are invited to leave a message of comfort for Joanie’s family.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Joan Marie (Panagakos) Smith, please visit our floral store.