SPRINGFIELD, Ky. (NEWS RELEASE) — Wilma Smith, who taught three generations of Owen Countians during a 50-year career, will celebrate her 100th birthday on Sunday, June 16.
Known to her students as “Miss Wilma,” she will be honored with a party at the home of her daughter, Joyce Hill Hardin, in Springfield, Ky., on the 16th, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Donations in honor of Miss Wilma can be made to the Owen County Children’s Fund, P.O. Box 56, Owenton, KY 40359. The fund provides clothing, medical, dental and vision assistance to disadvantaged Owen County students.
Wilma Smith began her teaching career at the one-room Cedar Hill School in 1933 when she was only 20 years old. She had already begun her college studies at Cumberland College. She taught 4th through 8th grades for the first two years at Cedar Hill. After that, she taught all eight grades.
She continued teaching and completing her college studies, graduating from Georgetown College in 1956. She completed her master’s degree, also from Georgetown, in 1959. She went on to earn 30 hours above her master’s at UK, achieving the Rank I certification.
After Cedar Hill School closed in 1951, Miss Wilma taught at Owenton Elementary, and then closed out her career at Owen County Elementary. She retired in 1983, but continued to substitute teach for several years after that. She had taught continually in the county since 1933, except for two years when she took time off to be a mother to her newborn baby girl, Joyce Hill, who was born in 1937.
Wilma Smith was born June 16, 1913 to Thomas and Elnora Hill of the Owen County community of Cedar Hill. The family farm was located on what is now Elmer Davis Lake Road.
She had an older brother, Cecil, and two younger twin brothers, Virgil and Vivian. She is the only surviving member of the family.
When she was five years old, Wilma’s mother died. “Life was tough for the family in those days,” said her daughter Joyce. “She was forced to grow up in a hurry, and was soon cooking, working on the farm and running the household for her father and her three brothers.”
Wilma had always had a dream of being a teacher. She had been inspired by her father, and practiced the skill even when she was still in school by tutoring her younger brothers.
In 1935, Wilma married Carl Smith. Later, the two of them bought the farm in Cedar Hill next door to the family farm where she grew up. Her husband Carl passed away in 1998 at the age of 93.
Her students recall that Miss Wilma had boundless energy in the classroom, and that she would often prefer to run rather than walk from one place to another or one student to another. This fast-paced teaching style earned her the nicknames of “Roadrunner” or “The White Tornado.”
Her students over the years have praised Wilma Smith’s dedication to teaching. “I remember Miss Wilma’s tremendous love for all her students,” said June Osborne, who was a third-grade student in Miss Wilma’s class in 1970. “She is today one of my favorite teachers ever. I admire her so much.”
The thousands of students educated by Miss Wilma went on to become doctors, judges, lawyers, ministers and community leaders, not only in their native Owen County, but also throughout the nation.