Good-bye to a Good Friend

Jan 15, 2021 | News

Wilma Jean Smith        

March 13, 1930 – January 10, 2021

Wilma Jean (Frair) Smith of Allen, Texas passed away on January 10, 2021 at age of 90. She was born on March 13, 1930 to John Craig Frair and Lola Frances (Pigg) in McKinney, Texas. Wilma married Wylie J.C. Smith on February 8, 1947.

“My daddy farmed 600 acres. During World War II, I did field work, because all the men had gone to war. We farmed cotton, corn, maize, wheat, oats, and barley.” Wilma and Tom Keener joked that farmers learned about equal rights for women long before urban dwellers.

“I married a boy from Celina, and we moved around a bit… When we came back (to this area), my husband joined his father in a grain business here in Allen.”

“By that time, I was working at Texas Instruments (TI).”

Wilma began at TI in 1962 on the assembly line. According to Tom Keener’s father, an industrial psychologist suggested TI hire women for this, because they possessed the fine-motor skills needed for semiconductor production. Wilma’s diplomacy, problem-solving abilities, and attention to detail were recognized, and she ultimately assisted in the Executive Offices. She became friends with Mrs. Eugene McDermott. When Wilma retired after 30 years at TI, Mrs. McDermott asked her to become Secretary for the McDermott Foundation, which she did for 17 years, retiring from that in 2013.  Ron Keener declared, “ Wilma was industrious, dedicated, fastidious, a quick learner and highly disciplined.  He well recalled that when international employees attended the annual Planning and Stockholder’s meetings, Wilma expended countless hours preparing for their arrival.  In addition, scientists and presidential cabinet members such as Governor John Connolly attended these sessions.  At the invitation of Ms. McDermott, Lady Bird Johnson appeared at numerous TI events.  Wilma worked tireless hours and well past midnight on numerous occasions to ensure that all of these events were highly successful.”       


“The McDermott Foundation has supported so many things in Allen. They are an amazing family,” stated Wilma, “and (Mrs. McDermott) is a wonderful lady. The year I retired, the Foundation gave a $50,000 grant to the Allen Public Library. The city matched funds to purchase the current electronic check-in system.”

“The Library started right here (in my living room). We had our Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA) meeting. ESA is supposed to do good works. Ruth (Pringle) said, ‘We don’t have a library.’ Several people thought that was a good idea.”

The Library these women started now checks out over a million books each year. It started on hand-built shelves in a downstairs room of the Woodmen of the World building. Local citizens donated books for the collection; the sorority women typed up the card catalogue; and volunteers kept it open a day or two each week.

Besides being a founding member of the Library, Wilma was one of the first members of the Friends of the Library when Barbara Buehler initiated it; and Wilma and Ruth created the Allen Library Endowment Fund to help ensure the Library’s ongoing vitality in the community.  When it was time to campaign for a bond to build a new library, Wilma was on the front lines again, talking with people, hammering yard signs in Eileen Tollett’s yard to pass out around town, and marching with the Friends in the 4th of July parade, promoting the bond, encouraging people to vote.

Wilma stayed active in the Friends through the early 2000’s, serving on the Board, volunteering at events and programs, and making delicious dishes for the annual pot-luck dinner and staff appreciation luncheon.  She enjoyed being there and visiting with everyone. Sometimes she would chuckle and say, “We have a staff!”

In 2019 TI alumni chartered a bus to attend a program at the Library, featuring the author of Shoot for the Moon, on the 50th anniversary of that event.  TI alums were recognized for their vast contributions to that important mission. Wilma was among them.

Wilma is survived by her son, John C. Smith and wife, Michel of Casa Grande, Arizona; daughter, Susanne Smith Brooks and husband, H.C. of Tom Bean, Texas; 7 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Wylie J.C. Smith, Jr; son, Thomas Frair Smith and 3 sisters.

The family is asking that memorial donations be made to the Allen Public Library, the Friends of the Allen Public Library, and/or the Allen Library Endowment Fund in her memory, 300 North Allen Drive, Allen, Texas 75013.

A few thoughts from Friends:

“I remember Wilma as being a stalwart of the Allen Public Library and the Endowment Fund… She was open-minded, but firm, in her resolve to advance the status of our library and its programs… She will be missed greatly.”  Ken Fulk, Mayor of Allen; Allen Library Endowment Board

“When Wilma spoke, it was worth listening. She had a gentle way about her, and I can hear her chuckle.” Debbie Vavra, Friend and retired Reference Librarian

“I remember when my daughter fell asleep on her lap during the Christmas parade!” Friend, Lisa Hinegardener

Thoughts from Tom Keener from his father (who also worked at TI) about Wilma:

“Father indicated that for a lady raised on a farm to become an integral part of TI’s upper management could only occur in America. ‘Wilma is the female…Horatio Alger.’”

“Since Father and Wilma were both raised on farms, they laughed how lessons garnered from their agricultural experiences… prepared them and laid the foundation for resolving daunting challenges for a technically focused Fortune 500 company. 

Plowing the first groove (in a field) is the most daunting challenge, because the tractor driver does not have a frame of reference…The importance of properly preparing the foundation for a house, the first row on a field, and the first component on an assembly line was an aphorism that was transcendent to multiple personal and professional endeavors.”

“Wilma was unfailingly kind to everyone.  She had a terrific sense of humor.  I will miss her sparkling eyes and ready chuckle.  Her strength through difficult challenges…will stay with me the rest of my life.  She showed us the best way to be a human and helped make me a better person by living her life as she did.” Solina Marquis, Friend and former Children’s Librarian

“Wilma was one of the first people I met when I joined the Friends of the Library. I admired her continued dedication to the Allen Public Library and the Friends group.  She was a wise woman who had well-thought-out input that made our group stronger.” Sandy Wittsche, Friend

“Wilma was the most gracious person I’ve ever known.  Her thoughtfulness and courtesy to others was lovely to see.  Her positive attitude toward life and her interest in everything was inspiring.  At an age where many people turn inward, she still looked outward.  She was energized being involved and in the know. I loved her partnership; I treasured her friendship. I will miss her very much.” Jane Bennett, Friend