By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
Pamela Michele Thornton Smitherman, a mother of five and supportive wife of a community leader, who inspired others with her courage as she struggled two years with a rare form of breast cancer, died Jan. 15, 2019, at home in North Avondale. She was 48.
Mrs. Smitherman was born on Nov. 23, 1970, to Michele (née Gholston) and Gerald Thornton, and spent her first two years in Washington, Pennsylvania. A precocious child, she “went to college before kindergarten” and at the age of 3 years, was the honorary cheerleader and mascot for the College of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio. Her father affectionately called her “Louie” and Aunt Dianne Thornton’s nickname for her was “Ladybug”.
As a child, Pamela had many interests and talents. She played the flute in middle school and high school. In high school, she ran track and was a cheerleader. She was adept at hair braiding. She learned how to sew at age 10,and by the age of 14,shewas designing, making and selling custom outfits. Her seamstress skills are showcased in her wedding dress she designed and handmade. Her most recent designs that displayed her talent were handmade for her niece’s wedding in August 2016.
Mrs. Smitherman graduated from high school in June 1988, and entered Bowling Green State University as an English major in January 1989. She met her husband, Christopher Smitherman, then a graduate student at Bowling Green, and they married on Dec. 29, 1990. The young couple remained in Bowling Green, and she received her Bachelor’s Degree in December 1992 and her Master’s Degree in Technical Writing in May 1994. Afterwards, they lived in Wheeling, West Virginia, for four years before settling in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they raised their family.
Of all the roles that Mrs. Smitherman had, she most cherished the role of wife and mother. She and her husband are the proud parents of Christopher Edward Charles, II, Malcolm Edward Charles, Isaac Edward Charles, Caleb Edward Charles and Camille Dianne Pamela. Through her career as a teacher, her children’s activities, and her husband’s profession as a financial adviser, former president of the Cincinnati NAACP, and Cincinnati city councilman and vice mayor, she was very active in the Cincinnati community. She volunteered in her children’s schools, coached her daughter’s soccer team, served on the boards of North Avondale Neighborhood Association (NANA) and Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI), and was active in the Clinton Hills Swim Club. She has been the treasurer of her husband’s campaigns since he entered politics in 2002. She worked for Cincinnati Public Schools for 21 years, initially as a grant writer and later as a teacher. She loved dolphins and photography.
Those who were close to her said they knew her as a true and loyal friend. She was always willing and ready to lend a hand, knowing when to assist before the request was made.
Mrs. Smitherman was a child and young woman of enormous faith. At age 7, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and from that point onward, her faith never wavered. She was active in youth groups and the choir at Bible Baptist Church in Garfield, Ohio.
She bravely fought breast cancer during the last two years, and peacefully passed away at home in the company of her family on January 15.
Governor Mike DeWine was among the numerous guests attending the funeral service at Allen Temple for Mrs. Smitherman on January 26 at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Bond Hill. He noted along with other speakers what a great mother she was, even being so protective of her children as to be called “Mamma Bear’’ by those who knew her well, and how she loved and cared for her five children. DeWine said, “Nothing is more important that what we do for our children, and Pamela’s legacy in that regard will never die.’’
Other speakers said they knew her as a conservative and graceful woman, not seeking fanfare for herself.
Mayor John Cranley said Christopher Smitherman “showed us all what it is like to be a father and husband’’ in the last two years he cared for his wife and children and, at the same time, took care of the city as vice mayor. “And today, he showed us what it is like to be a man, when he sang at his wife’s funeral,’’ Cranley said.
Smitherman said his wife was able to laugh and smile up to the point of her passing. “We prayed for a miracle. It did not happen. But we thank God for the miracle of Pam,’’ he said.
She is survived by her husband, Christopher E.C. Smitherman; children, Christopher II, Malcolm, Isaac, Caleb and Camille; parents, Michele and Timothy Banks, and Gerald and Karen Thornton; sisters, Tracy (née Banks) Stone (Jeff) and Alexis Thornton; nieces, Katiri Danise and Aliesha; nephew, Michael; mother-in-law, Barbara Smitherman; brothers-in-law, Herbert Jr. (Lynn) Smitherman, James Smitherman, Albert (Liza) Smitherman, Joseph (Jason Knaley) Smitherman; sister-in-law, Mae (David) Smitherman- Smith; nieces, Kristen Smitherman-Voltaire (Emilio), Davia and Daria Smith, Jade Smitherman; nephews, Joshua, Justin, Jeremy and Sean Smitherman, David Andrew Smith; great- nieces, Leyla Smitherman and Arya Voltiare; great-nephew, Justin Smitherman, Jr.; and a host of cousins, friends, students, colleagues, Best and #1 Friends, Donna and Angie, and many, many loved-ones.