Ronda Mondell (Ellis) Smith, 86, of Newton

Ronda Mondell (Ellis) Smith went home to be with the Lord she loved and served on January 31. Born on May 23, 1931, the second of 13 children in the home of Lee and Nannie (Nester), Ronda was a cornerstone of her family, a beloved and trusted wife, mother, sister and aunt.

As a young girl, in addition to attending school, Ronda worked in her father's general store in Newton. Her dad said that he greatly depended on her and it was during those years that she developed a work ethic that would come to distinguish her throughout life. After graduating from Roane County High School in 1950, Ronda attended Glenville State University and later attained her teaching certificate. Her first teaching job came at the Uler Grade School, where she taught first-through-fourth grades. During this time, Ronda began dating John (Johnny) Smith, who had returned home following service in WWII and employment in Virginia. The couple soon became engaged and were married at the Newton Baptist Church in November 1954.

John and Ronda then moved to Akron, Ohio, where Ronda worked for the Goodyear Rubber Company before giving birth to the couple's first child, Mark. It was in Akron that John accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior and the family was soon off to Pontiac, Mich., where John attended Midwestern Baptist College. Beth, the couple's second child, was born in Pontiac.

After graduation, the family returned to West Virginia, where John pastored Faith Baptist Church in Charleston, and Ronda stayed at home with the children. After a two-year return to Michigan, the couple moved to Canonsburg, Pa., where John pastored First Baptist Church and Ronda began teaching in the public schools as a special reading instructor. Two years later, John launched Keystone Baptist Church in Washington, Pa., and Ronda became a fifth-grade teacher at Library Christian School in Finleyville, Pa. Ronda had a true passion for teaching and helping kids learn and grow. Mark noted that throughout his life he would meet people who had been students of his mother and, to a person, they would express that she was one of their favorite teachers. Ronda was also an exceptional pastor's wife, demonstrating kindness, grace, compassion and godly wisdom to others throughout her life. People responded to her gentle nature and she was able to encourage and inspire many ladies and young women in their walk with Christ. Ronda was a music lover and sang in many choirs and ladies groups, as well as directing many church choirs. She always had a song in her heart and could frequently be heard singing.

Ronda was renowned as a terrific cook and she loved to prepare meals, especially during holidays, for her family. Her go-to desserts were Cherry Delight and Peanut Butter Balls and family members incessantly requested that she prepare them. Ronda and John were also dedicated gardeners and enjoyed canning, grilling and making home-made pizzas utilizing their garden bounty.

After a series of health issues for John, the couple returned to Newton in the mid-1990s to refurbish John's childhood home. They were avid walkers and were renowned for pacing throughout Newton together, often hand in hand. They also remained active in ministry in their golden years, volunteering with the Gleaning for Christ printing ministry in Looneyville, prayerfully and financially supporting an array of missionaries worldwide, ministering to many area relatives through in-home visits, and becoming active members of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Newton. Each night before bed, John and Ronda read their Bibles together aloud and spent time in prayer.

According to Mark and Beth, Ronda was the sweetest and most adoring mother they could have ever hoped for; they lovingly referred to her as "mama." Many would say that Ronda was the personification of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 whose value is "far above rubies." To the very end, she and John were faithful servants of the Living Christ, embodying II Timothy 4:7-8, which reads, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (KJV).

Ronda will be buried with some mementos that recall her life, including: a photo of she and John; one of her Bibles; a Gospel tract (which she always carried); a tube of lipstick (because an Ellis girl is never without lipstick); and a notepad and pen to denote her orderly chronicling of information, particularly regarding John's healthcare.

Ronda was preceded in death by her parents and husband John (February 2013). Siblings forgoing her in death were brothers Delano, Roy Lee, Kent and Danny, as well as sister Virginia Katherine, who died in infancy.

Ronda is survived by her children Mark (Lynchburg, Va.) and Beth (Boulder, Colo.), brothers Lane (Evelyn) and Frank (Anna), sisters Joyce Fanaza, Jean (Paul) Brannon, Martha (David) Cox, Judy (the late Harold) DePue, and Sheila (Joey) Minardi, sister in law Joann Atkinson, and numerous nieces and nephews who revered their Aunt Ronda.

A memorial service will be held at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Newton on Saturday at 11:00 a.m followed by burial in the Smith Cemetery, Uler. The visitation will be held at the church on Friday evening from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

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