Jo Anne Smith, 79, of Asheville, North Carolina passed away from complications from Covid-19 on Wednesday, December 21, 2022. Jo Anne was born on June 21, 1943 in Annapolis, Maryland as the daughter of Leo William Smith and Helen Evelyn (Lloyd) Smith. She was one of four siblings (James, Carol and Nancy) who were raised on a tobacco farm in Maryland.
After graduating high school, Jo Anne married, moved to Florida, had her only biological child, (daughter Deborah Anne Cribb) and went to work for the government as a transportation office secretary for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). She was there during the exciting times of NASA’s Mercury manned space flights and the subsequent Apollo moon mission space program. She worked closely with heads of departments and was involved with handling dignitaries and celebrities who came to witness mission launches from the closest viewing area allowed. She was given several awards for her service during her time with NASA. During this time, she divorced her first husband and then married Herbert Edmund Cribb who worked at NASA as an engineer. They took early retirement together and moved to Waycross, Georgia when the space program discontinued the Apollo missions and shifted to the Shuttle program. After several years of caring for various family needs, they eventually moved on to North Carolina. She was devastated when Herb passed away shortly after that from heart issues leaving behind four other children from a previous marriage: David, Gary, Beth (deceased) and Deborah Lynn. David and Deborah Lynn continued to remain in contact with Jo Anne through the years, along with David’s grandchildren, Jeff and David Michael and their mother Lucy Doty (deceased).
Jo Anne decided to return to federal government work as a secretary at the VA (Veterans Administration) Hospital in Asheville; first in the Engineering Department office before transitioning on to the Chaplain’s office. Again she received several awards for her work with the government before her “second” retirement. During this time, she met, married and divorced Lester Carr who also worked at the VA Hospital as an engineer.
As a result of her long-time membership at Groce United Methodist Church of Asheville, she developed a strong community of faithful friends who supported her as she served the church in various roles. It was here that Jo Anne also met two wonderful men she would grow to love, respect, cherish and eventually marry: Buck Thompson and John Smith. With each came eventual heart break as they both passed from this world before her, but they each left her with loving, caring step-children who remained in touch with her after the passing of their fathers. She may have had only one biological child, but she left behind a large loving family.
Jo Anne was a matriarch who very much loved and served her family. She was a wonderful force of nature and support for her daughter, Deborah Anne, and Deborah’s two children Deanna and Veronica Bagwell. The four were very close and always lived with, or within a few miles of one another. Memories of childhood tea parties, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, homemade Halloween costumes, competitive board games, deep, lively and interesting conversations and Christmas traditions (Jo Anne’s favorite time of year) abound. Jo Anne also loved sewing, gardening, reading, visiting and having lunch with friends, traveling around the country and annual family trips to the beach. She also volunteered at various work, community, school and church functions. Her daily presence is sorely missed.
Jo Anne is survived by her sister Nancy Smith; her daughter Deborah Anne Cribb and granddaughters Deanna and Veronica Bagwell; Cousins Linda Harshaw and Mark Milewski; and nieces Anna Smith and Linda Lynch. She is also survived by step-children David (Debbie) Cribb, Deborah Lynn (Mark) Bairunas, Gary Cribb, Cate Thompson, Mike (Mary) Thompson, Kim (Jon) Miller, Jeff (Lucy) Smith and several step-grandchildren.
A memorial service in her honor will be held at Groce United Methodist Church of Asheville (954 Tunnel Road) on Saturday, January 28, at 1:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to The Arthritis Foundation at https://www.arthritis.org or the Groce United Methodist Church Memorial Fund.