Sarah “BeBe” Berman Smith, who devoted her life to her family and the community of Vidalia, died Thursday, March 1, 2018, at the age of 96.
She will be laid to rest Friday, March 2, at 2 p.m. in Savannah at Bonaventure Cemetery.
BeBe was predeceased by her husband of 64 years, Benjamin Smith. Together, they were pillars of the business, civic, charitable and religious life of Vidalia, where they lived for more than 50 years before moving to Atlanta in 2003.
Born Aug. 8, 1921, to Fannie Jaffe and Morris Berman in Blakely, she was the youngest of four daughters, and she was preceded in death by her three sisters, Elaine Wynne (Barney), Inez Seitz (Joe) and Florence Bergstein (Max).
BeBe was a true “steel magnolia,” known for her steadfastness, charm and gracious hospitality. She was featured in The Vidalia Advance in “Entertaining Lifestyle,” sharing some of her now-famous recipes. Her favorite pastime was caring for her rose gardens and the multitude of azaleas that filled her yard. Her greatest joy was her love and care for her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After completing Shorthand and Business University in Atlanta in 1939, Bebe married Ben in 1941 and moved to Vidalia, where she worked in the family business, Max Smith’s Department Store. She later became manager of The Fourth Door, a discount division of the store that was, literally, its fourth door on Main Street.
Among her volunteer activities, she worked for decades as a “pink lady,” the medical auxiliary at Vidalia’s Meadows Memorial Hospital, visiting the sick and working at the gift shop.
Along with her husband, Ben, BeBe co-founded an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Vidalia in 1968 called Congregation Beth Israel and was its treasurer for more than 30 years. She helped prepare the many ceremonial meals, such as Passover seders, for the members of the synagogue and Jewish visitors from nearby towns.
She had a penchant for fashion and assembled one of Vidalia’s major fundraisers for the Vidalia chapter of the American Business Women’s Association.
In 1990 she was named the Bicentennial Queen of Vidalia and crowned at the Centennial Ball commemorating the 200 years of the town’s existence.
She leaves behind two children, Richard B. Smith (Sandra) and Barbara Smith Pomerance (Leon); four grandchildren, Mitch J. Pomerance of Boston, Rachel Pomerance Berl (David), of Bethesda, Md., Jaffe Smith Ort of Atlanta, and Marlysa Sullivan of Atlanta; and two great-grandchildren, Samuel Alexander Ort and Benjamin Jonah Berl. She also leaves a sister-in-law, Doris Foskey of Vidalia, and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Beth Israel Congregation, c/o Duane Tomlin, 1117 Tomlin Road, Lyons, GA 30436; Congregation Etz Chaim Youth Programs, 1190 Indian Hills Parkway, Marietta, GA 30068, www.etzchaim.net; or Congregation B’nai Torah Youth Programs, 700 Mount Vernon Highway, Atlanta, GA 30328, www.bnaitorah.org. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Bonaventure Cemetery, 330 Bonaventure Road, Thunderbolt, GA 31404. Arrangements by Gamble Funeral Services, Savannah, 912-354-1616.