Wednesday afternoon young artists, Mainstreet Covington board members, Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce members and friends and family of Irene Smith gathered at the chamber visitor center to honor her service to the organization’s tourism division as well as the Main Street program.
Students ages 9 to 16 in the advanced art class taught by Elise Hammond at the Southern Heartland Art Gallery donated pieces for display in a new art wall installed by Hammond and her husband at the visitor center. The wall allows artwork to be changed periodically and was dedicated to Smith for her service.
Tourism Director Clara Deemer thanked Smith for her help and support as a member of the tourism council.
"She was always very kind - she never said anything like, ‘dummy, why did you do it that way,'" Deemer laughed. "It was always, ‘please, why don't you do it this way.'"
Main Street Covington Director Josephine Kelly also applauded Smith's work since coming on board as a founding member of the program.
"Not content to just be an advocate for the revitalization of the downtown district, Irene then began to promote the development of a local tourism program," Kelly said. "Irene was the ever popular step on the guide for bus tours and to many her commentary and shtick have become legendary."
Kelly continued saying that ever since Smith rotated off the board in December, meetings have not been nearly as entertaining. She commented that Smith's many talents as an educator, chef, television host, gardener and writer were rare to find in a volunteer and even rarer in a friend.
"She has brought creativity, color and energy to the program," Kelly said. "She has brought together the talents and assets of our community together and made it a better place for us all to live and work."
Smith expressed gratitude for the honor and told the assembled guests that many years ago while dining with outdoorsman, conservationist and local celebrity Charlie Elliott, she was explaining how something had hurt her feelings in dealing with something she was passionate about.
She said he simply told her: you're not a hero in your own country. That phrase gave her the motivation on continue doing the work she felt was important to her community and encouraged her to serve on various boards such as for the tourism division and Main Street program.
"I feel like a hero today," Smith said. "And, there are two words that you'll never hear me say - ‘I'm back' - because I'm never leaving."