Imogene Smith, beloved matriarch, mother, daughter, sister, wife, aunt, and friend, passed away Tuesday evening, March 23, 2021, just over a week shy of her 100th birthday. She transitioned peacefully at her home, which was first purchased by her parents and has served as a family gathering place for more than 50 years.
Imogene was born April 5, 1921, in Gibson City, Illinois, and spent most of her life in the Champaign-Urbana area. She worked as a salesclerk in downtown Champaign for many years. Starting as a stock clerk, her skills became readily apparent and she was quickly promoted to the sales floor. Imogene blazed trails, becoming one of the first Black women in the area to hold such a position. An original fashionista, customers asked for her by name because she was so sharply dressed and gave expert advice on their fashion choices. Walking to and from work daily in her signature high heel pumps, Imogene worked well past the typical retirement age. In her later years, when her doctor asked what she attributed her longevity to, Imogene humorously responded, “It must be the vodka!” which she sipped each evening in a classic highball.
A natural storyteller, Imogene’s colorful tales of her childhood revealed that her lifelong traits of curiosity, a sharp mind, and love of family all began at a young age. Imogene’s tight family bond and tireless work ethic ensured that her children had opportunities available to them that she did not. Known to her friends as “Jeanie” and lovingly called “Little Granny” by the younger generations, Imogene was known for her endless devotion to the youngest members of the family – constantly showering them with more gifts, affection, love, and laughter than they can possibly recall.
Imogene is predeceased by her parents – William Yancy and Tishan Smith, husband Henry Wood, brother Earl (Margaret) Smith, sister Margaret (Hoy) Minor, nephew Charles Pealer, and son-in-law Antonio “Tony” Zamora.
She is survived by her younger sister Thelma Pealer, daughter Betty Zamora, and son William (Charlene) Smith. She also leaves five grandchildren, Mark Zamora, Tesha (Lyndon) Myers, Damona (Michael) Strautmanis, Damon (Janine) Smith, and Charon (Darin) Gladfelter, 12 great-grandchildren, one great-great-granddaughter, numerous nieces and nephews, and many other family members and friends.
A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date.
The family requests that expressions of sympathy be made in Imogene’s name to the North End Scholarship Fund of the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation (P.O. Box 1166, Champaign, Illinois 61824-1166, or https://cuschoolsfoundation.org/scholarships-for-students/).
Imogene was a larger than life spirit housed in a petite, 5-foot frame. She will always be remembered for her spunk, determination, humor, fearlessness, and willingness to fight for those she loved and for what she believed in. She will be greatly missed by the many people who were touched by her extraordinary life. She lives on in each of them.
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