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Susan Ann Ray Smialowicz
March 16, 1946 ~ October 11, 2023 (age 77) 77 Years Old
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Susan Ann Ray Smialowicz died peacefully on October 11, 2023, after several years of declining health. Born March 16, 1946, to Samuel Clyde Ray, Jr., and Marjorie Ann Burgess Ray in Fort Worth, Texas, Susan was a proud Texan despite the family's move to Mississippi when she was a mere six weeks old. During her childhood in Greensboro, NC, Susan was an active member of her church and school community, graduating as a proud Grimsley Whirlie. She attended Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, temporarily putting aside her disappointment at being at an all-girl’s school. She then made the fortuitous decision to obtain her Master of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she met the love of her life, Ralph Smialowicz, who was in the PhD program there. They were married on a beautiful, crisp autumn day, October 27, 1973. Happy to remain in Chapel Hill after graduation, Ralph and Susan raised their daughter, Amy, there and had 42 wonderful years together in the community they loved. Susan was a devoted wife, caregiver and advocate for Ralph when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and died too young at age 68 on New Year's Day 2015. Susan then moved to Asheville to be closer to Amy and her family.
Susan served as a social worker at the Baptist Children’s Home in Thomasville, NC, in the juvenile justice system in Burlington, NC, and at UNC Hospital in the dialysis department. After the birth of her daughter, she spent several years at home, and later found a new calling as the assistant librarian at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. She subsequently had a rewarding career at the Chapel Hill Public Library in the Children’s Department. Her all-time favorite job title didn't come with a salary, but brought her untold rewards, as Mimi to Hill, her grandson and the second great love of her life.
Susan and Ralph were avid Tarheels, and Susan did her part to pass this on by instilling in her daughter Amy - likely in utero - a loathing for all things Duke. Susan was active in several churches over her lifetime, teaching vacation bible school and Sunday school and participating in mission activities. She loved cross-stitch, reading non-fiction, a fast-paced walk and harmonizing to every song she heard. A strong advocate for social justice, she supported local, state and federal politicians who she knew were interested in bettering the community. Susan had a quick wit, never met a stranger and had a deep, abiding love for her family and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Samuel Clyde Ray, Jr. and Marjorie Burgess Ray, and her beloved husband, Ralph Joseph Smialowicz. Left to remember her are daughter, Amy Smialowicz Fowler, of whom she was enormously proud; her favorite son-in-law (in her words) Rhulon Todd Fowler; and the joy of her life, grandson Hill Albright Fowler, all of Asheville; her sister, Joani Ray Hughes and brother-in-law David Hughes of Winston-Salem, NC; other family includes Tim, Perry, James and Jackson Hughes Williams of Baltimore, MD; Molly, Ian, Pancho and Lola Ramos of Nashville, TN; Kevin Hughes of Chicago, IL; Theresa, Larry and Raymond Abernethy of Rahway, NJ; Nicole and Aurora Abernethy of Bloomfield, NJ; Scott and Jessica Barnes of Monmouth Junction, NJ; Edna Smialowicz of Lodi, NJ; Celia and Chip Dunay of White Plains, MD; Christopher Dunay and Felix Rucker of Pomfret, MD; Ben, Kim and Adaline Kallal of Odenton, MD; Laura and Jackson Kelly of Forest City, NC; Catherine McBride of Naples, FL; Jennifer McBride of Vero Beach, FL; Paul Smialowicz and Maureen Byrne Smialowicz of Colts Neck, NJ; Mary Vasquez of Naples, FL; Eric and Melissa Vasquez of Cody, WY; Lizzie Vasquez of Atlanta, GA; Megan Vasquez of Burlington, MA; Jonathan Vasquez of Boulder, CO; Donna, Paul, Marissa and Justin Vasquez of Downington, PA; and Mark, Ann, Sylvia and Jack Vasquez of Wayne, PA.
The family wishes to thank the staff at the Lodge at Mills River for their incredible care, love and support. A celebration of Susan’s life will be held at a later date. Gifts in memorial can be sent to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500, Decatur, GA 30030 (or cbf.net), or to Chapel Hill Public Library Children’s Department, 100 Library Drive Chapel Hill, NC 27514 (or chapelhillpubliclibrary.org).