1937 Janet 2024

Janet Louise Smith

July 29, 1937 — May 19, 2024

Missoula

MISSOULA ~ Janet Louise (Gonsior) Smith went home to our Lord on Sunday, May 19, 2024, following a courageous battle with Lewy Body Dementia. She was 86 years old. Janet’s loving family were at her side when she passed.

Janet was born in Hamilton, Montana on July 29, 1937. When she was a young girl, her parents moved their family to Missoula. Janet attended Paxson Elementary School. She went to Missoula County High School where she loved to work on the school newspaper and yearbook. She was active in tennis and frequently played at Bonner Park with her childhood friends. 

Janet met the love of her life, Lester Orin Smith, in high school. They married on August 8, 1957. They eventually raised their family of four children in Missoula, but first they lived in Miles City and Great Falls where Lester worked. 

Janet was an excellent writer. She wanted to become a journalist, but her dad encouraged her to go to nursing school. Janet enrolled in St. Patrick’s School of Nursing after high school. She later left nursing school to raise her children. Once they were in school, Janet began working in retail.

Janet and Lester were active in St. Anthony’s Parish in Missoula. They sent their children to St. Anthony’s Elementary School. They volunteered for church, school and community activities and events. She donated her time delivering food for Meals on Wheels. When there was a loss or illness in a family, she made meals to drop off for them. People were drawn to Janet’s friendly personality and generous heart. 

Janet loved to sew; her daughters wore matching outfits that she created to several Easter vigils and family reunions. She was talented at decorating her home and cultivating flowers, particularly roses. 

Janet treasured her time with family and friends. She played pinochle and bridge, attended her children’s school and sports events, and was an avid football fan. She did a lot of camping, boating, and fishing even when her children were young and still in cloth diapers. She bathed them in a galvanized tub with water heated on the camp stove. Her family loved the huckleberry pancakes she made in the cast iron skillet. Seeley Lake, Canyon Ferry Lake, and The Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River were among her favorite places. Janet also enjoyed caring for their dogs.

She and her husband moved numerous times throughout their 50-year marriage. In 1981, they relocated from Missoula to the Helena area when Lester was transferred with his job. Initially, Janet was sad to leave her family and friends in Missoula, however she came to love the Helena valley and their home and neighbors in Clancy. She lived there for 26 years before she returned to Missoula after Lester passed.

Janet was preceded in death by her husband, Lester Orin Smith, her parents, Frank and Pauline Gonsior, her sister, Gertrude (Trudy) Wells, and her son-in-law, Joe Odell. She is survived by her children, Michael Joseph Smith and his wife, Kim; Gwyn Smith-Downes and her husband Danny; Eric Smith; and Rebecca Odell; nine grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was blessed to have enjoyed a life-long friendship with her first cousin, Fred Jay Stout. She adored his wife Gayle and felt fortunate to have her children grow up near their children. Janet spoke fondly of her childhood best friends who have remained in her life, Mary Ann Whaley Antrim and Colleen Higgins Nicholson.

Janet’s family is eternally grateful to their extended family and friends for their unconditional love. The family expresses their profound appreciation to the staff at The Village Health and Rehabilitation for their knowledgeable and compassionate care of Janet.

Janet’s wish was to be cremated and to have her ashes spread with those of her beloved Lester near the Gates of the Mountains. Janet’s family will be hosting a gathering to celebrate her life on Labor Day Weekend 2024 in Missoula. For details, please email CelebrateJanetSmith@gmail.com. Memorials to honor Janet’s memory may be made to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, 912 Killian Hill Road S.W., Lilburn, Georgia 30047.

Arrangements are under the care of Sunset Memorial Funeral Home and Crematory in Missoula.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Janet Louise Smith, please visit our flower store.

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