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Living her dream


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Mildred Osborne Smith singing a tune, accompanying herself on guitar, in her home in Bishop's Cove.

Mildred Osborne Smith of Bishop's Cove has no intention of ever "rusting on her laurels."

"I'm 63," she says. "But I'm 63 years and holding; 63 years young." She emphasizes the last word.

Her age has done nothing to dissuade her from pursuing her life's dream.

"I'm like George Jones," Smith says with a smile. " 'I don't need no rocking chair.' Why stay idle if you can be active and do some good for yourself and other people? Nobody's ever too old to do something they really want to do."

She should know, for hers is the voice of experience. For as long as she can remember, she's wanted to be a singer. More to the point, she's wanted her own CD of original lyrics and music.

"That was in my head, but I was thinking, 'This is never going to happen to me,'" she recalls.

At times, it seemed her dream would never come to pass. However, that will all change later this week when she's scheduled to release for her very own CD, appropriately titled Living My Dream. Though the road leading to this moment was filled with ruts that threatened to end her dream, in the end she succeeded eminently.

Smith was born in Spaniard's Bay. When she was about nine, she moved with her family to Bell Island, where her father worked as a miner. Four years later, they returned to the Conception Bay community. Smith stayed there until she relocated to Bishop's Cove, after marrying a man from the community. Smith is the proud mother of Deborah, 44, Len, 43, and her namesake Mildred, 37.

Smith and her husband, Gordon R. - to distinguish him from two other Gordon Smiths in Bishop's Cove - operate an alternate family care home, licenced by Eastern Health and social services. A people person, Smith "needs to be needed. If somebody needs my help, that makes my day," she says.

Singing was part of who Smith was as a young girl.

"When Mom had friends over, the only way they'd get me to sing was if I got behind her chair, so they couldn't see me," she remembers.

Once Smith got over her shyness, she sang for hundreds of weddings and various other small functions through the years.

In 1975, she participated in an amateur singing contest in a Bay Roberts club. Her selection was The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA by Donna Fargo. One of 43 contestants, Smith won first place. She used her $500 winnings to buy her first guitar and a kerosene heater.

Whenever she thought about making her own recording, she came up with what she thought were justifiable reasons why she couldn't do it: "My children are small; I have to work; and I don't have the means to go into something like that."

An event last April changed her mind. She attended the release party of a CD put out by her friends, Ian and Rod Chipman, of Players Choice Studio in Spaniard's Bay.

"I'd be so happy if that were me," she said to herself. "This is the night they've been waiting for. This could be my night." The party triggered something in her.

Gordon gave his wife the final nudge she needed. And on June 7, Smith officially started working on her album. Five months later, Living My Dream is ready to be released to the public. Finally, Mildred Osborne Smith will have her night. "It's a dream come true for me," she enthuses.

Smith had 1,000 CDs pressed. In response to a question about her financial investment in the project, Smith says, "It was a lot more expensive than I thought it was going to be. Expensive but worthwhile. I wouldn't take that money back now for anything."

Smith wrote the lyrics and music to all 10 songs featured on her recording. These include The Ocean Ranger Tragedy, My Spaniard's Bay Home, Megan (in honour of her first grandchild), and Tell Your Mother (a tribute to her mother).

Smith has written 50-60 songs and poems. "There's a story behind each one," she says. "People can relate to a lot of it." There are lyrics about marriage breakup, as well as comical compositions.

Her musical style?

"I've got sort of a country style," she says. By "country," she means "the pure old country, the Kitty Wells stuff," she adds. "I also think there's a bit of Irish or Newfoundland folk sound to some of my tunes."

Other performers who have influenced Smith's style are Jean Shepard, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Carroll Baker.

In fact, Smith and Baker are in touch with each other via the social media. Baker wished Smith well with her CD, encouraging her to sing from her heart.

"But George Jones is the king," Smith says. "He's my idol."

Smith's family members are ecstatic about her achievement.

Her daughter, Deborah, comments, "Always holding true to herself, (Mom) waited and knew that someday she would have the time to embark on making her own CD and publishing some of the many songs she has written over the years. I'm very proud of her recent accomplishment of finally completing a heartfelt goal of hers."

Smith's sister, Beverly, is no less effusive in her praise. "Mildred has the voice of an angel and deserves this chance. She will always be a star in our eyes."

Smith herself is rather modest in her wish for those who pick up her album. "I'm hoping they're going to mellow with it; relax with it."

The release party for Mildred Osborne Smith's CD, Living My Dream, will be held at the Seaside Lounge in Spaniard's Bay at 8 p.m. on Nov. 13.

"I never thought I'd live long enough for this to happen," she reflects. "I know I'll shed a tear or two."

Smith is known today for encouraging others: "You're never too old. You can make yourself believe you lost your chance in life. Don't ever give up on your dreams."

Incidentally, Smith still has one unfulfilled dream: "I think that after I get all this done I'm going to go and look for a Harley-Davidson for my husband and me to ride through Newfoundland."

Knowing her determination, she'll be living that dream, as well, in the not-too-distant future.

burtonj@nfld.net

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