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Smith, Juanita Othel

Juanita Othel Smith, beloved daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, died peacefully Monday, Sept. 3, 2012, in her Cedar Rapids, Iowa home. She was a spirited 80 years of age.

Juanita was born in Flint, Mich., in 1931 to John Gibson and the Civil Rights leader and activist, Viola Gibson. Juanita followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an award-winning community volunteer and advocate for the rights of all, especially the poor and children. One of her proudest achievements was the work she did in 2008 to help President Barack Obama win Iowa and later the presidency, and she was looking forward to working for him this year.

From Flint, Mich., through New York City, Juanita built a robust life in the Dorchester area of Boston, Mass., before returning home to retire in Cedar Rapids. There she became an active member in her church, Bethel AME. As an outspoken community advocate, her life’s work included leading her union at Anderson Power in Massachusetts, establishing free recreational activities for children in Dorchester, and much more. Her recognitions include awards from the City of Boston, the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, the Four Corner Action Coalition, and receiving the Hidden Heroes and the Civic Leadership Awards while in Cedar Rapids.

Juanita was committed to her civic life but more than anything else she loved her family, her friends, and her Lord. She enjoyed laughing and playing a mean game of bid whist. Juanita had a smile that could light up a room. She had a laugh that could soothe any soul. Expressed best by her brother, Will: “Now that my sister is gone, the sun doesn’t seem as bright. As warm. As friendly. It is probably that bright smile of hers that’s missing. I’m going to miss her. We all are going to miss her. I will never stop loving you, Juanita.”

Juanita’s legacy continues through her dedicated family. She is survived by her older brother, Will Gibson of Los Angeles, Calif.; thirteen nieces and nephews; several grandnieces and grandnephews; and her devoted German Shepherd, M.O.

No public services will be held.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in Juanita’s name to the Cedar Rapids Foundation, c/o Viola Gibson Elementary School at 2500 Edgewood Rd. NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405. For more information, please call 319.558.2400, fax 319.558.2224, or email kswanson@cr.k12.ia.us. Also see: www.crcsf.com.


Published Sept. 7, 2012 in The Gazette