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A life anchored firmly in the water

Jane Tarr Smith, descendant of a sea captain who moved to Tampa in 1876, dies at age 81. She was at home on the water.

[Times photo: Special to the Times]
Stockton Smith and Jane Tarr Smith pose on their wedding day in 1940. They had a simple ceremony at the Bayshore Boulevard home where her parents lived.

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- When Jane Tarr Smith was a child, her family lived on the Hillsborough River.

All her life, she would remember the mahogany speedboat that carried her father to town each day.

All her life, she would find the shore.

"She loved the water and the beach," said her eldest son, whom she named Skipper.

Smith, who died Jan. 14 at age 81, was the great-granddaughter of a Norwegian sea captain, a man who settled in Tampa in 1867.

For 57 years, Smith and her husband, Stockton, lived on Prospect Road, a few blocks from Bayshore Boulevard. They spent most of the last four years in a condominium overlooking Hillsborough Bay.

She was proud of her family's roots, buried deep in Tampa's past, and ensured they would not be forgotten. Before she died, she assembled a scrapbook for Skipper and his younger brother Reed. The collection contained old photographs and news clippings about her great-grandfather, Capt. John Miller, her grandfather, Rufus Crowell, and her father, Russell Tarr.

In the late 1800s, the captain was a partner in the city's largest mercantile and banking business, Miller & Henderson. He and Crowell also owned Tampa Steam Ways Co., which carried the mail.

Jane Tarr dated the boy she one day would marry while in seventh grade at Wilson Junior High. He was an eighth-grader. On their first date, her parents drove them to Bok Tower in Lake Wales for an all-day outing.

"I still remember the dress she had on," said Stockton Smith, a smile lighting up blue eyes as he pictured his wife.

She attended Florida State, which was then an all-women's school, after graduating from Plant High in 1938.

In 1940, she married Smith, whose family owned Tampa's first Travelers insurance agency, in a simple ceremony at the 1925 Bayshore Blvd. home where her parents then lived. In the family scrapbook, there's a photograph of the newlyweds.

"She was a good mother, a fine Christian," said Stockton Smith, tears filling his eyes. "She had principles."

At the Jan. 14 memorial service at Davis Islands Baptist Church -- which was founded by Jane's family and missionary Tom Watson -- Stockton Smith's family honored him for his devotion to his wife of 61 years.

Stockton Smith, 82, had tenderly cared for her over the past few years as her health failed.

He helped her in and out of bed and a wheelchair. He cooked their meals. And when she could no longer feed herself, he fed her.

"He did everything for her," Skipper Smith said.

Jane Tarr Smith leaves her husband, two sons, five grandchildren, three nieces and three great-grandchildren.

- City Times chronicles the lives of the famous and not-so famous. To suggest an obituary, e-mail or call (813) 226-3382.

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