Aurelia woman's book recalls her grandfather

Friday, April 12, 2013

AURELIA - What does someone who has nine children, 23 grandchildren, at least 14 great-grandchildren, and is expecting her first great-great grandchild do to keep the memory of her grandfather alive?

One Aurelia woman who meets that description decided that what she would do is write a book about him. Berniece Spinelli, an Aurelia area native, has penned the self-published tome entitled "The Hills Were His Home" about the unusual lifestyle chosen by her grandfather, Thomas Everett "Barney" Smith, who lived from 1866 to 1959.

Berniece Spinelli

Barney Smith was a multi-talented area farmer and house builder, a loving husband, and father to 11 children, 10 of whom lived to adulthood. He built over 80 homes, including three for his family and himself.

"The Hills Were His Home" tells of how Barney held his wife in his arms as she passed away after a long battle with what is now thought to be leukemia, and how he then chose to move across the valley from the home the couple shared and build a one-room brick house, the walls of which still stand today. The book relates Barney Smith's choice of a simple lifestyle through photos and stories.

While Berniece has many fond memories of walking to her grandparents' home, only a mile and a half from her home farm, the story she tells is of a man who loved his wife, took care of his family, and read his Bible daily.

Barney Smith is shown reading his well-worn Bible in this photo. Photo contributed

"He was a gentle soul," Berniece recalled, as she shared how Barney always welcomed visits from his children and grandchildren, who brought him such staple foods as peanut butter and milk.

Berniece is quick to convey that it was Barney who sowed the seeds of her own belief in God. He not only read his large family Bible every day, but shared the words of "God Almighty" when he made his semi annuall trips to town to pay his taxes with money he kept in a peanut butter jar.

Barney lived until the age of 93, spending only his last few years with a daughter in her modern home. Until that time, he lived in the one-room house made of bricks he formed himself, sleeping in a rope bed he constructed and getting his water from a spring. He washed his bib overalls and other clothes in a nearby creek. He farmed a little land with a pair of horses and a single bottom plow, harvesting the crops by hand.

Unlike the rest of world, which was moving into an age of electricity, television, and space exploration, Barney chose to live without those conveniences which many of us today have never been without.

If you'd like to find out more about this remarkable man and his simple life, you can purchase a copy of "The Hills Were His Home" by attending one of the author's book signings during the month of April. Berniece will be holding a book signing at the Aurelia Public Library on Tuesday, April 16th from 1p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Here is a photo of Barney Smith's simple, self-constructed "Home in the Hills." Photo contributed

You can reach the author directly at her home in Aurelia at 712-434-5700.

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