Priscilla Smith of Ferrysburg and Jackson donates her time to give children in our country and several third world countries a beautiful picture to hang on their barren walls. Mrs. Smith began making these pictures twenty-five years ago, “I can’t even remember why except I had so many pretty greeting cards and I didn’t want to just throw them away. It seemed to me to be a waste.” The wall hangings are two-sided with crocheted frames of coordinating colors to the photo and can do about six or seven a night if the preparation is done ahead of time. Mrs. Smith boxes the cards up and ships them to wherever they are requested at her own expense. “In September I sent 265 to St. Petersburg to the drive-in ministry. I send them to Sudan and other parts of Africa, Mexico, Japan, Haiti, Yukon, Honduras and Yugoslavia.” She spends on average four hours a night working on them. “When I get low on greeting cards, I go to yard sales and thrift stores for children’s books mostly Golden books that are worn somewhat, but the pictures are still useable. They make great ones for very young children. “Admittedly, the punching of the holes can get quite hard, trying to go through the cardboard which I use for backing is hard, but my daughter helps out a lot.” For her local ministry, Smith had just finished 250 hangings for area children. “I do this for the Lord not for the thank you or recognition. I just love making them.”
At 85-years young, the elegant soft-spoken Mrs. Smith is very active, “I cannot stand to just sit and watch the television. I have to be doing something with my hands while I sit. I don’t sit for long before I’m off doing something else. For instance this summer I helped my daughter spray paint her lawn furniture and I putter around in the yard. I’ve always been like that, probably because of my parents who were always active.”
Mrs. Smith’s parents originate from England. “I went back two years ago and it was so much fun. I usually spend two weeks at a time, I met family I never knew I had and rekindled old friendships. It was lovely, but it isn’t enough time to meet my entire family.” Smith’s father Clifford Latham was the baby of fourteen and wanted to became an apprentice in cabinet making and wood-carving so he spent seven years in Venice learning the craft. According to my father there was so much to learn. Furniture today is all done by machine back then it was done by hand.” After his apprenticeship was up Mrs. Smith’s father was set to sail on the infamous Titanic. The night before she was to sail, he changed his mind and sold his ticket. He decided to study cabinetry for another six months. “He was horrified when he learned of the ship sinking. My father finished his apprenticeship and sailed to America, found a job. My father had a sister here that’s how he came to be here and he loved Michigan, the trees, green rolling hills and the variety of wood. ” Priscilla’s father worked for a lumber company for years. “I don’t know how the power company heard of him, but he eventually worked for them until he retired. The President or CEO, whatever title they had back then, commissioned my father to build office furniture specifically for his use and enjoyment. The man was extremely pleased. I have no idea where that furniture is now, if it even still exists.” His talent didn’t end with furniture making; Mrs. Smith holds dear a jewelry box her father made especially for her. The box is mistaken for an old book something a person can easily find at Hobby Lobby, but not of the same quality. “Back then, only real wood was used and my father inlaid different types/grains/colors of wood together to create an unusual, but beautiful affect.” Mr. Latham never started his own furniture business, but word spread of his craftsmanship and was asked to build a scale model of the Cascade Falls located in Jackson, Michigan to display all over the state. “My dad spent hours at the Cascades taking measurements. Everything had to be exact. He was a perfectionist.” The fountains are similar to Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain with the music and lights. There are only two massive fountains in the world; one is in Switzerland and the other here in Michigan.
When asked if her mother was from here she quickly replied. “Oh no, my mother knew a lady who worked for a very wealthy family. Well this friend wanted to move back to England and knew my mother was very dissatisfied with England and asked my mother if she would take the job and that’s how my mother came to America.” When questioned how Mrs. Smith’s parents met, she responded, “Years ago there was an English click where all the Englanders gathered and became friends. You have to understand that when they moved here they had no body, no relatives, nothing; most of their family was left behind in the old country. That’s how my mom and dad met.”
Mrs. Smith’s goal is to have 500 more crocheted wall hangings by the end of the year. She has a box that already holds anywhere from 600-1000 just waiting to be shipped out.
Mrs. Smith’s daughter also helps out by cutting out the photos or the cardboard backing. Smith’s daughter is the teapot lady of Ferrysburg, Carol Hibnar.