Gloria Smoak-Mixon is a loving mother, educator and musician known for her propensity to lend a helping hand to others. She says it is something that was instilled in her long ago.
Smoak-Mixon doesn't consider herself a saint but believes in living by example. She has shared her gift of music and education throughout her 41 years of work in the United Methodist Church. Her work ethic extended to her family through her roles as a loyal caretaker of elderly parents and doting mother of four children.
It is Smoak-Mixon's ability to conform her life and conduct to moral and ethical principles that has earned her designation as the exemplification of virtue by the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
The 84-year-old was a little baffled by the honor.
"I was surprised but when I think about virtue, I think of kindness and helpfulness. It's being helpful to those other than myself. I don't consider myself as being religious. I count myself as a servant, and I try to do all that I can for people," Smoak-Mixon said.
She served for 20 years as director of Christian education and visitation at St. Paul UMC in Orangeburg before retiring in 2000. She had previously worked at a United Methodist church in Sumter and had also served in the capacities of secretary, musician and education director at Methodist churches in other states, including North Carolina, Florida and Texas.
"I just enjoyed working here in Orangeburg at St. Paul United Methodist Church. I worked with a lot of volunteers. I met some beautiful people and so many families in the church," Smoak-Mixon said. "I tried to become a part of their lives, and that basically satisfied me. It's been such a delight."
Family has been a huge part of Smoak-Mixon's life as she cared for her parents, the late Richard and Grace Seiple, until their deaths.
"I had a mother and father that lived with me when I came to Orangeburg, and they both passed away while I was working. But it was a delightful time. I wouldn't have taken a million dollars for the things that we reminisced about. We were a family, and a family person is what I've always been," she said.
Working with church volunteers took a virtuous attitude, she said.
"It certainly plays a part in working with volunteers because volunteers are not too eager to do a lot of things unless they have a lot of love. I have an abundance of that, and I guess it came from my upbringing. My mother and father were very loving people, and I could always find some joy in somebody," Smoak-Mixon said.
She said her parents worked to instill Christian principles in both her and her brother, Richard Jr. She said she tried to do the same thing with her children, John, Susan, Mary and Bill. A native of Conneaut Lake, Pa., Smoak-Mixon is also the grandmother of 13 and the great-grandmother of 17.
"My parents were very gracious people. My mother was a musician who played the organ in the church for years. My dad had a lumber company. We were a very close family, and we still are. We don't have my parents anymore, but it's a closeness with people that we have," she said.
"I can always see the good in people, and I'm just more optimistic than a lot of folks are," the honoree added. "I've been a servant of God all my life and that was because of my parents. They were very active in the church and made both my brother and me who we are today."
Smoak-Mixon spends a lot of her time now mentoring others.
"I have mentored several people that are going into Christian education. That's love that I can give to somebody else," she said.
"I want to do many things, but I've had two knee operations, two hip replacements and a pacemaker. I've said that I am going to be ready for the salvage yard," she said, laughing.
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