Rookie Manning

Monica Smith at the CCS Halloween festivities in 2008. The Charlotte News file photo.

Beloved former Charlotte Central School principal Monica Smith, who spent the last 19 years of her career as an educator at CCS before she retired, passed away last week. Her absence will be deeply felt by so many, including her friend, retired CCS teacher Rookie Manning.

When I think of a descriptor for Monica Smith “passionate” comes to mind right off. With difficulty using this past tense so soon, truly Monica was passionate about so many, many things. She had an extraordinary zest for life and all things living. As my principal for 19 years, she demonstrated passion for her students, their needs, their learning, their parents’ hopes and struggles. She was up front with the latest learning techniques and wanting her teachers to match her enthusiasm, take the risks and offer the best to our students. Monica was always about the students. She was present for them, learned each one’s name and welcomed them to her office (for fun stuff not punitive). She simply loved them all.

Monica was thoughtful in the literal sense. She weighed each possibility. She sought after and listened to opinions before making weighty decisions. Monica’s passion turned emotional at times. Her compassion for students, parents, teachers and people in general led to an empathy that would bring her to tears more often than some knew. Monica knew and loved a vast amount of people from every walk of life, called them her friends and checked on their well being whenever she could. She made friends easily with her charismatic and sensitive demeanor and she considered them her friends forever.

It needs to be said that Monica was a woman of deep faith. Faith guided her throughout her entire life. I know she prayed for enlightenment when making consequential decisions. Monica prayed for others constantly (their stress, health, grief, hopes and safety). Indeed, she had “a list” and would say “She/he’s on my list.” Monica was praying for our whole world during this pandemic, and her incredible gift of empathy was in full play.

And our Monica was a giver. Indeed, she was a giver of self to individuals and worthy causes. She would find a way to help out whenever a need would arise. Monica also enjoyed finding the right thing for the right person. She loved to give gifts that would delight the recipient. Witnessing that joy was a gift in itself to those of us on the other end of her generosity.

One cannot think of “Mons,” as I called her, without picturing her glorious smile that preceded her contagious sense of humor and laughter. Oh how Monica loved to laugh! She thrived on good stories (hers and others’). A cliché often quoted: “She lit up the room” doesn’t quite do it for Monica. Monica WAS the room!

Most importantly, Monica adored her husband, Ed, her children, James, Mary and Willy, along with her precious grandchildren. They were her world. Pictures, stories and accomplishments were shared freely with so much pride, love and often humor. My prayer is that each one can know that a love, such as hers for them, knows no barriers in this world or the next.

That bright light of Monica’s didn’t only fill a room; it filled our world and our hearts. It is shining still. Monica insists we carry it forward. And we will, Monica. We will.