Ralph Smith will be missed as much for his exceptionally good manners as for the exceptionally good vegetables he grew and shared, say those who knew him.
The man called "Lefty" took immense pleasure in farming, fishing and visiting with friends.
"He was one of the kindest, gentlest, most giving people on this planet," says Melody Bailey, manager of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Johns Island, where Smith worked for several years.
Smith, who moved from Florida to Johns Island with his family when he was 6, was born in March 1950, and died Nov. 5. The respect people had for him showed in the big turnout for his funeral at Greater St. John AME Church, says Bailey. She described the church as overflowing.
Smith was employed at the ReStore to pick up items from donors and price them at its warehouse, she says. Frequently, those whose homes he visited to pick up donations would call to say how mannerly he had been. They called and said he was a kind and pleasant gentleman, words rarely heard today, Bailey says.
But his special gift was gardening, she says. "He was just an amazing gardener. He always shared his wealth of collards, okra and whatever he had with us here. He grew the best collards I've had since my granddaddy passed away. To be able to garden like he did after working here at the store all day shows that he had passion for gardening."
Smith's father, Ravenel Smith, made his living by farming, says his sister, Earlene Smalls. While the family worked the farm, Smith always was diligent.
He learned as a boy to grow the corn, watermelons, collard greens, okra, tomatoes, celery, butter beans and peas the family ate and his mother, Linnie Doles Smith, sold from her Bohicket Road stand. After the family stopped farming for a living, Smith always planted a garden.
"He actually planted for the family so we would have, but there always would be too much," Smalls says. "He enjoyed sharing (his produce) with people because he grew it and loved what he did. That's what he knew all of his life. Over the years, he had many jobs but was always a farmer at heart," Smalls says. His favorite crops were his okra and pole beans, Kentucky Wonders, she says.
It did not matter to Smith if a person's station in life was high or low, Smalls says. He had no problem relating. "He loved people. Ever since I can remember, everybody loved Ralph and Ralph loved them. He was just a sweet person. He was a giving, loving person and we all miss him so badly."
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.