A letter from Monica Smith Prentiss about her Sister Renee Therese Smith Bradly.
My sister, Renee Therese Smith Bradley, was born on July 19, 1962. She was the third baby girl to Jim and Mary Jean Smith. At the time of her birth they were living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Later, the Smith family moved to Connecticut where they eventually had two more daughters – five girls.
Renee was very intelligent and very protective of her family. When she was 17 years old she got pregnant, had her daughter, married the man and then they had two more children. It was a very hard life for her; her husband was a heavy drinker and spent money they didn’t have. She never graduated from High School but worked hard to get her GED, then her CAN. She worked full time as a CNA while she put herself through nursing school. With the help of her sisters and parents taking care of the children, she got her nursing degree. All the while raising her two daughters and son with everything they could ever want or need: Brownies, 4 H, horseback riding, Baseball -She gave them everything.
She taught me how to drive and took me to get my license. She always had time for her family. She loved watching court shows, Matlock and Perry Mason. She always told me she should have been a lawyer instead of a nurse. But being a nurse paid the bills, and she loved helping people. As a lawyer she would help people but would probably accept eggs or chickens as payment.
When we would drive to the U.P. of Michigan from Connecticut, to visit all of our cousins and aunties, uncles and grandparents, as soon as we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge, she would pull the car over and we would have to go into Lake Michigan. No matter how ice cold the water was – it was the same with the ocean, no matter what you felt about the water. It was her rule.
She had many injuries; a bad accident at one time where she was rear-ended and needed major back surgery. The cold New England winters were hard on her after that. Finally, when the children had finished school, Renee decided it was her time – Time for her to LIVE. She divorced the children’s father and started to rescue Wild Mustangs.
She was always an animal lover. She rescued everything as a child: dogs, cats, rabbits, one time she nursed a Canadian goose that had been hit by a car until the wildlife sanctuary could take it. I remember when I was seven years old – I came home from school and we had a horse tied to the tree in the front yard that “needed a home.” My dad was less than impressed but knew she was determined and helped her find a place where she could keep him.
Renee did anything for the ones she loved. She never thought about it. If someone needed her, she was there. She was devoted to her family, her cousins, her Aunts and Uncles. If anyone needed her she would drive thousands of miles to get to them. But as I said, there came a time she needed to live for herself. She remarried, separated and then decided to get away. She sold the family home, took her horses and moved to the South – North Carolina. The winters would be easier on her, and she always wanted to be a southern bell.
Her children disowned her for this. But she prevailed. She still would send cards and gifts, to no avail. She never gave up.
In 2007 when my baby was born prematurely and died, she drove 23 hours, straight through, and came to me in the hospital. She spent a week with me. She made sure I ate, and showered. She made me laugh and remember what life was about. LIVING. After she left she would call me and say, “did you eat today? You should go for a walk….”
She loved hard. She was kind and generous, would give anyone her last dollar if they needed it more than she. She was a wonderful nurse, mostly caring for the elderly. Ultimately her kindness is what led to her murder.
On August 15 she was watching a movie at a friend’s house, with who she knew from her nursing job. She also helped her friend’s elderly mother on a regular basis. Most recently the elderly mother needed a freezer for the vegetables her bountiful garden had produced.
Renee had a freezer in storage she was not using so she brought it to the house for her to use/have.
That night, while Renee was watching a movie, the other son was angry about the freezer. No one knows why really, at least not yet. He walked over to his brother’s house and walked in. He was carrying a shotgun. He told her he was going to kill her. Renee, being who she is, said oh come now, sit with us and watch a movie, everything is going to be alright. Instead he walked over to her and shot her point blank in the head. He walked out and went home, watched TV until the police came.
Life has been Hell since. She was our middle sister. Now she is gone. My 75-year old parents do not know how to live without one of their daughters. She was funny and smart and kind, and she is so missed. She was 48 years old. She was two sister’s little sister and two sister’s big sister. I know I am missing so much to tell you about her. But she was amazing, and she should still be here. And she is not. And now nothing is the same.
I forgot to say. I was the youngest and I called her Nay Nay, I guess I couldn’t say Renee when I was little. She signed all her cards Nay, and my children called her Auntie Nay.