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The world lost some of its sparkle on April 13, 2023, when Ramona DeLaney Smith slipped away from those who can't imagine life without her. Beautiful as Audrey Hepburn, her petite frame and heart-melting smile overlaid a sharp mind and tongue, and a core of battleax steel.
Born in Mansfield, OH, on August 20, 1928, to Loa N. Letts and Harry H. DeLaney, Ramona was the eldest of the famous DeLaney sisters, who included Betty Colleen DeLaney Grafton and Janet DeLaney Austin; and big sister to Leo "Butch" DeLaney. The first member of her family to attend college, Ramona graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). There she honed her talent for illustration and graphic design and drank glass-to-glass with G.I.s returning from WWII, one of whom was CIA professor F. Eugene Smith. Of all the enamored young men in Ramona's orbit, Gene was the lucky one. From the night they met at a CIA dance, he was her everything for the next 65 years.
Ramona and Gene raised three children, traveled the world, and worked side-by-side bringing people together to make good things happen. Ramona was a graphic artist for Jessup Advertising and Lucky Shoes, and taught graphic design at Kent State University, where one of her students included Akron's Don Drumm. She developed and ran the Run of the Mill souvenir shop at Quaker Square, providing historic memorabilia and to-die-for hot oatmeal cookies. Ramona designed several years of Goodyear’s boxed Christmas albums. While overseeing Gene's Design Management business and working on the firm's projects, Ramona was a founding member and president of Progress Through Preservation, was instrumental in preventing the Civic Theater from demolition, revitalized the Glendale Cemetery and Steps, installed and cared for Market Street's hanging flower baskets, and supported countless other civic endeavors. She was an active member of the Akron Art Institute.
Ramona was an accomplished illustrator, potter, painter, and sewer. She lived for gardening, flowers, and reading. Above all, Ramona loved her family, befriended everyone, and changed innumerable lives for the better. As for those of us who can't envision a world without Ramona, the strength she has given us carries us forward.
Ramona is survived by her sister, Janet DeLaney Austin; children Mark DeLaney Smith and partner Kristina von Held; Erica Braden Smith and spouse John F.X. Walsh; Jeni Kelleher and spouse William Kelleher; grandchildren Erin DeLaney Aubé, Kathryn Ann KT Wyatt, Delaney Lee Walsh, and Sean Eugene Walsh; beloved nieces and nephews; and great-grandchildren Sydney, Cooper, and Lorelai.
Interment will be private, with a memorial announced later. In lieu of cut flowers, please consider donations to any favorite organization working for the environment, historic preservation, justice, muscular dystrophy, or education. Or plant some flowers in Ramona's memory.
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