Marietta Crocco Smith peacefully passed on Jan. 9, 2022, from natural causes surrounded by her family and friends at home.
Born in the mountainous Calabrian town of Rovito, Italy, on May 20, 1927, to Luis Crocco and Filomena Crocco née Iusi, Marietta immigrated to the United States with her mother and older sister Anna aboard the vessel Augustus, arriving at Ellis Island on Dec. 24, 1928. Joining her father, who had worked all over the U.S. to raise money and bring his family from Italy, they settled in southeast Wisconsin where Marietta spent her formative years.
In 1949, she met Bill Smith, a Marine in training at nearby Naval Station Great Lakes. The two caught each other’s eye after a night of bowling, during which Bill jokingly ripped up a $20 bill. Marietta, ever thrifty, taped it together and returned it on their next meetup. They married in January 1951 in Yuma, Ariz., beginning a 70-year adventure together.
Marietta followed Bill’s Marine Corps career to California, Arizona, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Tennessee, often returning home to Racine, Wisc., during his overseas deployments. She gave birth to Mira Luanne while living at her in-law’s home in Northern California during Bill’s service in the Korean War. An elegant military wife, Marietta was active in base activities, baking contests, and bowling leagues—collecting trophies disguised as engraved silver serving dishes—and an Oster blender (which still makes great margaritas today) for “Bowler of the Year” at Kaneohe, Oahu, in 1959.
A generous and dedicated volunteer, she was proud of her leadership role in building the Navy Relief Society’s Layette Program, for which she was recognized in the early 1970s by Adm. Zumwalt, then Chief of Naval Operations.
In retirement, Bill and Marietta built a home in Orange Park, Fla., to be close to friends and family. Avid travelers in their retired years, Marietta’s favorite memory together was visiting China in 2002 and walking the Great Wall.
In 1988, Marietta began volunteering with the Orange Park Community Theater. She and her dogs appeared on stage in a handful of acting roles, but most often she was behind the scenes as an assistant director, stage manager, props manager, member of the board of directors, and (for nearly 33 years) director of concessions. Her time at OPCT fostered a love for musical theater, which sparked weekends with her family in D.C. or New York to see shows. She also participated in the Red Hat Society—red being her signature color.
A lifelong Catholic, Marietta was active at St. Catherine Catholic Church of Orange Park as a lay eucharistic minister. There, she attended mass daily for many years until the pandemic (or “leaping crud” as she called it). She built close relationships with her priests, even visiting Fr. John in Ghana, Africa, in 2014.
Marietta was her husband’s primary caregiver after he suffered a stroke in 1993 until his death in 2020. Quite the spitfire, she endured this difficult role only 2 years after surviving breast cancer—a disease that fortunately remained in remission the rest of her life.
Marietta loved to bake rum cakes, which she gave away freely. There were two rum cakes cooling on the counter the day she went to the emergency room in May 2021, which started her decline in health. She was also an avid knitter, generously giving handmade afghans and scarves to many people over the years.
Marietta is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Mira and Ric Moehrke; her grandchildren, David Small and Hannah Moehrke; her sister and brother-in-law, Lucy and Stu McNaughton; her sisters-in-law Shirley Crocco, Frances Blair, Rosalie Sisevich, and Lois Smith; and many beloved nieces and nephews.
She is preceded in death by her husband, Bill Smith; her parents, Luis and Filomena Crocco; and her siblings, Anna Youngflesh, Rose Nelson, Joseph Crocco, Patricia Crocco, and John Crocco.
A memorial service will be held at St. Catherine Catholic Church, 1649 Kingsley Avenue Orange Park, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:00 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a local animal shelter or rescue organization, honoring Marietta’s love for dogs, her furry companions, and for the stray kitties she cared for daily around town.
A special thank you to three amazing women: Linda White, Antezia Peer, and Keithetta Spikes for the loving end-of-life care they provided Marietta, which allowed her last wish to be fulfilled—to be in her home filled with a lifetime of memories in her final days.
Marietta’s remains will be inurned with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.