McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 8, 2013

Grace Robbins

Submitted report

McALESTER — Mrs. Grace Robbins, longtime resident of McAlester and recent resident of Norman, passed away suddenly on January 5 in her new home near her daughter in Norman. She had moved to Norman to fully fight a recent diagnosis of a rare cancer. Being the strong-headed woman she always was, she faced cancer with the same determination and courage with which she overcame heart bypass surgery 8 years ago and a broken hip in early 2012. Grace sought treatment for her cancer at the most advanced facility at a teaching hospital in Oklahoma City. There at the OU Medical Center and Stevenson Cancer Center she was treated with care, dignity, and respect as she bravely began treatment for this dreadful disease. Her willingness to participate in all aspects of treatments may have helped others by giving doctors the opportunity to learn more about her illness.

Grace was born in Krebs, OK on December 31, 1924 and she celebrated her 88th birthday last week with family members visiting her. Her daddy was William A. Smith and her mama was Vera Carmela Carano Smith, an immigrant from Italy. Grace was proud of her Italian heritage and often bragged about her abilities to cook and behave “in the Italian style”, and rightfully so. All who knew her can confirm that she excelled in both those areas. She fed and fussed over her family until the end. After leaving high school she married Paul Daniel Robbins of McAlester, OK on September 17, 1944, during his service in World War II with the Air Force. They were married until his death in 1975. During Paul’s long Air Force career Grace, a small town girl, traveled and lived all over the world – California, Arizona, New York, Pennsyl-vania, Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Mexico,  Florida, and even France. After her husband’s retirement, they settled in Midwest City, OK for many years. After Paul’s death Grace moved back to McAlester. In all of those places Grace maintained beautiful homes as a full-time homemaker. Grace and Paul had three daughters who survive them – Paula Engelking and her husband, Steve, of Indianapolis, IN; Jo Ann Johnston and her husband, Johnny, of Hutchinson, KS; and Gina Robbins and her husband, Phil Buechel of Norman, OK. On many occasions and to many people Grace bragged about how lucky she was to have three outstanding sons-in-law, and all three of them very generously provided support of all types to Grace. She was proud of all of her daughters and was happy that her girls had wonderful mates.

Grace is also survived by two grandchildren, Diana Engelkin, of Indianapolis, IN and Paul Johnston, of Hutchinson, KS and two great-grandchildren, Sean Engelking, of Indianapolis and Johnny Johnston, of Hutchinson. Her surviving siblings are Jimmy Smith and his wife, Martha, and Jennie Cook, all of Krebs. Surviving sisters-in-law are Bette Smith, Marylinda Smith, and Clara Evans.  She also has many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

In addition to her husband and parents, Grace was preceded in death by her brothers Charles Smith, Al Smith, Jerry Smith, and Jack Smith, all from Krebs. And we must also mention she was preceded in death by Al’s wife Pat Smith, who was not just her sister-in-law but also her cherished best friend for many years throughout their lives.

Grace did love her family and home life. She loved decorating her house, holding and attending garage sales, country drives, collecting interesting rocks for her rock garden, and even the occasional casino trip. She was an avid watcher of daily television news broadcasts, comedy shows, and reality courtroom programs. And she almost never missed watching OU football games on television. Earlier in her life she was an expert seamstress and made many beautiful clothes for her daughters.

Later in her life she faced some hardships and she proudly overcame all of them, often with limited means. She made the most of whatever she had and maintained a remarkably lovely home. Her daughters are proud of her independence, determination, and desire for self-reliance.

Grace would want us to mention some special people who were important and very helpful to her. These include her nephew, Jackie Smith, and cousin, Charlotte Partain, who have helped maintain Grace’s home; friends Gayle and Elex Herandy, who were part of her treasured weekly routine for many years; and friend, Anita Smith and her husband, Bud, who were so kind to her.  “Nita” did so much to make Grace’s life easier for several years and the family wants to publicly thank her for that. In the last few months of her life, Grace was well looked after by the ladies of Complete Care Home Health in Norman, and we would like to thank Sally, Kandy, and Dana for that.

In the last few months Grace often said, “I’ve lived a pretty good and full life. Not many people get to live to be 88.”

A funeral service for Grace will be held at Chaney-Harkins Funeral Home in McAlester on January 11, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. with burial to follow at Memory Gardens cemetery in McAlester. Grace was a unique lady and she will be remembered and missed from now on.  Arrangements for Grace and her family were placed in the care of the Vice Family at Havenbrook Funeral Home of Norman, Oklahoma.  Online condolences may be shared at