Willou Smith


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📷SMITH, Willou Willou Smith died peacefully on May 9, 2022, surrounded by family and friends after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease. Willou was a trail-blazing and well-known Coastal Georgia legislator and businesswoman known for her spunk and love for the Golden Isles. She was 82. The second daughter of Millard and Claire Copeland, Willou was born on June 15, 1939. Willou graduated from Glynn Academy in 1957 and attended Florida State University, majoring in music therapy. While attending FSU, Willou was crowned Miss Tallahassee and was a runner up in the Miss Florida pageant. She came home to win the Miss Golden Isles contest and was later a runner-up for the Miss Georgia title. Willou was an accomplished concert harpist who for a number of years traveled from Brunswick to play with the Jacksonville symphony. She also loved playing the harp locally for special events, particularly the annual Christmas program at the First Baptist Church of Brunswick during the 1970s and 80s. During a trip to Atlanta while still in college, Willou met her future husband, Bill Smith, who, as legend has it, summarily dismissed her as being too immature and too fun-loving for his more staid and button-down tastes. Notwithstanding this first missed opportunity, the two were ultimately married in 1961 and quickly set up residence in Country Club Park, living on the 11th fairway of the Brunswick Country Club. The late 1960s and 70s were a busy time for Willou and Bill. They had two children, Leigh Ann and Cal, and as Bill began a new real estate career with the Sea Island Company, Willou began her life-long love of community affairs, first working with the Island Players and the St. Simons Arts Festival, both of which were in their infancy in those early days. In 1972, Willou and Bill became one of the earliest franchisees in a brand-new fast food concept called Burger King, when they opened their first restaurant in Brunswick on Altama Avenue, across from the then-bustling Brunswick mall. They ultimately grew that first restaurant to a multi-unit operation that they sold in 1991 as Willou began to focus more of her time in public service. The seeds for public service were sown by Willou’s father, Millard Copeland, who was twice elected as Mayor of Brunswick (the fact that he was the local Coca-Cola bottler at the time likely had something to do with his electoral successes). First elected to the Glynn County Commission in 1980, Willou served as the Commission’s Chairman from 1984 through 1986. She was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1986, where she served for a decade in a number of leadership positions. Although she was a member of the Republican Party, Willou was non-partisan at heart. She abhorred the bitterness of today’s politics and longed for the days when members of both parties could cross the aisle and reach sensible solutions that were in the best interests of all Georgians. She was as comfortable with legendary Georgia Democrats Tom Murphy and Zell Miller as she was with her dearest Republican friends Mack Mattingly and Johnny Isakson. In fact, while serving in the State Legislature, one of her most trusted confidants was Jennette Jamieson, a trail-blazing Democrat from Toccoa whom she loved to have a stiff drink with after the day’s legislative session was over. After leaving elected office, Willou stayed involved in the community by serving as Executive Director of the United Way from 1999-2001, the State Board of Education from 1996-2001 and Co-Chair of the College of Coastal Georgia Foundation when her close friend, Valerie Hepburn, was president of the college. Willou’s greatest achievement, however, was her 60-year marriage to Bill Smith and the family they produced. In addition to Bill, Willou is survived by her two children, Leigh Ann Barrick (Aaron) and Cal Smith (Sara), and three grandchildren, Sam Barrick and Will and Cope Smith. Willou is also survived by her sister Jimmie Claire North. The family wishes to extend their sincere and deep gratitude to Sabrina Alvin and her many caregivers for their loving and compassionate care during Willou’s later years. A memorial service celebrating Willou’s life will be held at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at Christ Church Frederica on St. Simons Island. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that friends consider a memorial gift to the Parkinson Research Foundation; 5969 Cattleridge Blvd., Suite 100, Sarasota, Florida 34232 or Hospice of the Golden Isles, 1695 Glynco Parkway, Brunswick, Georgia 31521. Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home is in charge of all arrangements. www.edomillerandsons.com

Funeral Home Information

Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home