Durango resident Jewell Emerson Smithson died after battling pneumonia and kidney failure Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Durango. She was 91.
Mrs. Smithson was born to Waldo and Effie Lott on Sept. 16, 1921, in Corona, N.M. She was the oldest of 14 children. When she was 12, her family moved to McAlester, Okla., where she married Stanford Holman Butler on Sept. 9, 1938. Together they had six boys.
After the death of her mother, the Butler family moved back to her father’s farm so she could help raise her younger siblings along with her own children. Mr. Butler died in 1956 at the age of 42. She married Charles Heskett on March 24, 1959, in McAlester, and he died two years later.
On Aug. 24, 1962, she married Roy Smithson, and they had one daughter together.
The Smithsons moved to central California in 1964, where they raised the boys who were still in the household along with their daughter.
They were active in the Moose International Lodge and bowling leagues. Later, Mrs. Smithson developed a love of bingo. But her favorite activity was fishing, even though she didn’t like to eat fish, her family said.
The Smithsons retired to Dolan Springs, Ariz., in the mid 1980s. Mr. Smithson died in August 1992. Mrs. Smithson remained in Dolan Springs, where she was active in her church and community.
She moved to Durango in 2010 to be close to her daughter, Tracy Cornutt, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado.
“Family was paramount in Jewell’s life, and she was blessed that during her lifetime she never had an offspring precede her in death,” her family said. “One of her favorite Durango activities was watching the wildlife outside her room at Sunshine Gardens and going on mountain drives with her daughter to see the aspens change color. She always called them ‘mountains of gold.’”
Mrs. Smithson is survived by her daughter, Tracy Cornutt, of Durango; sons Stanford Gene Butler of Fresno, Calif., Joe Butler of Kingman, Ariz., Jim Butler of McAlester, Larry Butler of Sanger, Calif., Darrell Butler of Clovis, Calif., and Roger Butler of Fort Smith, Ark.; stepdaughters Carolyn Conner, Linda Sims and Vicki Mixon, all of Oklahoma; brothers George Lott, Roy Lott and Jessie Lott, all of McAlester; longtime companion, Victor Wills, of Dolan Springs; 25 grandchildren; and numerous great- and great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 30, 2013, in Fresno.
In honor of the mentoring she provided to so many, donations may be made to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado, P.O. Box 2154, Durango, CO 81302; or to a charity of one’s choice.