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Published: Tuesday, 5/16/2006

Cook helped run Bowling Green car dealership

BOWLING GREEN - Wilma L. Smith, 82, who with her husband operated a Bowling Green car dealership and, before that, a restaurant and filling station on Dixie Highway south of Portage, Ohio, died Saturday in her home of complications from congestive heart failure.

She was a compassionate woman who cooked three meals a day for her family and worked as cook and counter clerk at Smith's Marathon, located at Dixie and Mermill Road from 1945 until 1966, a son, James, said.

"If you were eating and somebody pulled up at the gas pumps, you went out and served them, then went back in to eat," James Smith recalled of his childhood, during which his family lived in quarters behind the restaurant.

In 1966, the Chrysler Corp. recruited Alton and Wilma Smith to take over its moribund Bowling Green franchise based on the positive reputation they established at Smith's Marathon, the son said.

Mrs. Smith became the revived dealership's office manager and record-keeper while her husband was the principal salesman. The dealership added GM's Oldsmobile and Cadillac lines to its business in 1991.

James Smith said his mother worked in the office until about five years ago, and continued to handle certain reports for Al Smith Chrysler-Dodge from her home next door until her death.

Mrs. Smith was a longtime poll worker at her voting precinct and was secretary-treasurer of Rudolph Christian Church for more than 50 years. She was known among parishioners as the "Nut Lady" because of the peanuts she sold over the years to raise money for the church.

Anyone she knew who had a special occasion or a need for consolation received a greeting card with a personal note attached, Mr. Smith said.

She also made her love for Las Vegas beneficial to the church by tithing 10 percent of whatever she bet, her son said.

Surviving are her husband of 63 years, Alton C. Smith; son, James Smith; daughter, Barbara Bushman; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

The body will be in the Deck Hanneman Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Services will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Rudolph Christian Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church's building fund.

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