Alice Lavoice Middleton Smallwood
Born at home in the middle of a cotton patch on November 4, 1913 to Drury P. & Maggie Humphries Middleton, she received her unusual middle name from the doctor who delivered her, no doubt a commentary on her loud, inconsolable sobs. Growing up in the country, she roamed the rolling hills, rode pine saplings to the ground, smoked wild grapevines, swam and fished in stock ponds and creeks. She preferred working the farm, caring for its animals, milking and gardening alongside her brothers, Woodrow and Martin, to feminine pursuits like cooking, canning, sewing, and housework. The three children helped their parents finish the inside of the family home in the James Community in the early 1920s. Growing up Lavoice attended church with her family regularly and witnessed firsthand Drue and Maggie’s study of the Scriptures and daily prayer. She saw their compassion, generosity and encouragement for family and passersby. Lavoice soaked in every life experience, acquiring a variety of skills that she used throughout her life. Her hobbies included helping others, making lamps, nightlights, clocks and crosses, rewiring anything electrical, reading, baking bread, sewing, and ceramics. She got a real “charge” out of recycling, repurposing and harvesting parts of broken things, especially toaster ovens and lamps.
Lavoice graduated from Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College in 1933 with a two-year teaching certificate. Since there were more teachers than schools, she worked for a brief time as an investigator with another teacher. Traveling every country road in southern Shelby County, they sometimes blazed their own trail to visit homes of applicants to the National Recovery Act. From there she was transferred to the accounting and dispersing office. Finally a teaching position opened at midterm of the 1934-1935 school year. She taught in the Campti School for two years, leaving to apply her love for teaching and knowledge in life’s classroom. She worked for several locally owned businesses as a bookkeeper before graduating from Massey Business College in Nacogdoches. After returning to Center in 1963 to care for her aging mother, Lavoice worked as bookkeeper at Shelby General Hospital, Mack S. Smith Company, and Memorial Hospital. After almost 20 years of retirement, Lavoice was “recruited” to work part time in the Shelby County Clerk’s Office.
She began life riding to town in the back of a buckboard wagon, then learned to drive a Model-A automobile, eventually rode passenger trains and flew to Boston 10 days before turning 100 to attend a granddaughter’s wedding. This woman’s telephone experience ranged from using the community store’s wall phone with hand crank, to the luxury of having one a 16-party line phone in the home, and culminated in Facetiming her newest great-granddaughter on the day she was born in March, 2016. In her accounting career, green columnar paper bound in heavy black ledgers gave way to a “modern” posting machine in the hospital’s accounting office. In her nineties, Lavoice learned to surf the internet and e-mail on her own laptop.
Lavoice dearly loved her faith friends at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Center, TX, serving as church treasurer many years and on almost every committee and board. When she moved to Houston with her children in 2004, she became an associate member of Bellaire United Methodist Church and was warmly adopted into the Seekers Sunday School Class. After her children moved to Pearland, she transferred her associate membership to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston, TX where she faithfully worshipped past her 100th birthday. Lavoice interpreted her Christian service, witness and membership in the Church through the lenses of God’s grace and love. Her grandchildren used these words to describe her: unconditional love will continue to sustain and teach me; loving example of Christ’s hands and feet on this earth; hard-headed, strong, independent, kind; always giving, always loving, never asking for anything in return; legacy of [family], church, former students, “kin folk;” 102.75 years of service to God, loving her family, and being our matriarch; first to tell you that anything she did was only because of Christ working through her.
She was preceded in death by previous husbands, Fred D. Lansford and J. T. Martin Smallwood; her parents, Drue and Maggie Humphries; siblings Woodrow Middleton, Martin M. and wife Shirley Middleton; two infant sisters; and son, John Horton. She is survived by her children, Kathrene Horton, Martin Lansford, Johnce and Karen Smallwood, Amy and Rick Hume; grandchildren Johnene and Kathlene Horton, George and Joy Lansford, Levi Lansford, Jay and Lauren Smallwood, Drue and Lisa Smallwood, Jennifer and Dave Helgeson, Patricia and Brant Mills; great-grandchildren Brittney and Justin Ainsworth, Heather Mosley, Jessica Lansford, Schaefer, Silas, Samuel and Shepherd Smallwood, Cameron and Bailey Mills, and Emily Helgeson; a number of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and neighbors of all ages.
The family expresses appreciation to staff and caregivers at Windsong Village Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pearland, TX and Heart-to-Heart Hospice.
When asked how she would like to be remembered, she once replied, “. . . first of all as a Christian, for fairness and honesty, and a caring, peace-loving individual.” For 102+ years, Lavoice made the world a better place. You have “earned” your perfect rest. Those whose lives you touched believe you were greeted at the gates of Heaven with joy and a, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 1514, Center, TX 75935-1514.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 PM on Saturday, August 6 at Watson & Sons Funeral Home, Hwy 7 in Center, TX. A memorial celebration will be held at First United Methodist Church in Center, TX on Sunday, August 7 at 2 PM. Rev. John W. Riley and Rev. Ozay Ford will officiate. Interment will be at Antioch Cemetery. Services are under the direction of Watson & Sons Funeral Home in Center, TX.
Serving as pall bearers will be George Lansford, Levi Lansford, Stacey Tagen, Justin Ainsworth, Drue Smallwood, Dave Helgeson, and Brant Mills. Honorary pallbearers are Mike Middleton, Verner Wayne Middleton, Sammy Arnold, Bruce Koonce, Mart Thomas, Willie Eberenz, Bill Hughes, Kenneth Hardy, and John Childress.
Online condolences & tributes can be sent at www.watsonandsonsfuneralhome.com