Doris Marie Smith, age 94, of Rhinelander, died February 24, 2016. Doris was born April 1, 1921 in Ladysmith to Clyde and Josephine (Pelot) Sharpe. Although she spent most of her life in Rhinelander, Doris’s early years were spent in Chicago’s Roaring 20’s. She loved to tell the story of how when she was eight a mobster tried to steal her family’s new Ford at gun point, but when her 6’6” father unfurled himself from the behind the steering wheel and stepped into the alley, the mobster ran away. The Depression brought her family to Rhinelander where her father worked in the woods and her mother cleaned houses. Doris followed in their hard working ways and in her teen years cleaned cabins at Camp Bryn Afon where she met a very young future first lady, Betty Ford. Her ambitions were high and after graduating from Rhinelander High School in 1939 she attended the County Normal School in Rhinelander to become a teacher. Her first teaching assignment was a one room school house in Pine Lake, where besides teaching eight grades, she also picked up students who lived too far from school to walk, built a fire to warm the school and made hot lunches for students too poor to bring their own. She earned the students’ respect by fearlessly removing the snakes she found draped over door handles and in her desk drawers.
At this time her desire was to be an “old maid” school teacher and take her parents on exciting travels, but that ambition was cut short when she met Leslie Wilson Smith on a blind date. Leslie asked her to marry him on their first date and by their third date she said yes. At that time, a woman teacher could not be married, so while Leslie went off to WWII, Doris and her sisters moved to Milwaukee to become “Rosie the Riveters” for the military ship building industry. When Leslie returned, they settled down in Rhinelander to have children. But Doris never lost her passion for teaching and after her youngest started school, she began her second teaching career at St. Mary’s Catholic school. During retirement, she and Leslie enjoyed spending winters in Florida and summers at their cabin in Eagle River. She also made beautiful quilts, tended her flower gardens, spent time with her grandchildren and cooked for her very appreciative family. Doris also volunteered in her church and at the Friendly Village well into her early 90’s
Doris will be deeply missed by her daughters Julie Smith of Rhinelander and Mary (Bob) Holmstadt of Menomonie; sons Peter of Rhinelander, Steven of Oshkosh and Leslie of Palos Hills; grandchildren Melanie Wilson, Patrick Smith, Emily Smith, Zoe Smith, Heidi Holmstadt and Al Holmstadt; great-grandchildren Aidan, Ana and Sam Wilson and Cadence and Aliyah Smith. She is preceded in death by her parents, husband Leslie and sisters Joyce Brenamen, Beverly Chandler and Pearl Schroll.
Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday, February 27 at 10 a.m. at Nativity of Our Lord – St Mary’s site with Father Kevin Farrell officiating. Burial will be at Nativity of Our Lord Cemetery. Visitation will be Friday, February 26 at Hildebrand Russ Funeral Home from 4 to 6 p.m. with a prayer service at 6 p.m. Hildebrand Russ Funeral Home & Cremation Specialists 24 E. Davenport St. Rhinelander, WI 54501 – 715-365-4343. Celebrating lives and healing hearts. All are invited to light a candle, sign the guestbook, leave a photo or an online condolence at www.hildebrandrussfh.com.