Gloria Smith Reagan (“Nonnie”) of St. Johns, Florida, passed away in the early morning of Monday, July 27, 2020. Born in Bridgeville, Delaware in 1928, she was the only daughter of the late Elizabeth Horsey and Charles Walton Smith, Sr., and beloved sister to the late Martin Sterling Smith and the late Charles Walton Smith, Jr.
Nonnie grew up on her family’s apple farm, where she was regularly fired from her job at T. S. Smith and Sons by her grandfather Thomas Sterling (T.S.) Smith because she talked too much and would sing while grading apples. She studied ladies’ elocution at the Sharp School, where she gave recitations of her favorites, including Poe’s “The Raven,” and Joyce Kilmer’s “The House with Nobody in It.” As a teenager during World War II, Nonnie was a plane spotter and fell in love with aviation. She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri where she earned a degree in aviation in 1948, along with her pilot’s license, commercial license, and a commercial flight instructor rating. During her aviation career, Nonnie was a flight instructor, had an air taxi service, was recruited by a barnstorming troupe, and played professional basketball (half-court) for TWA. She was a member of the Ninety-Nines, and had her “short snorter” (dollar bill) signed by Mr. Piper of Piper Aviation.
She met Jim Reagan (“Poppy”) on a blind date, and he offered her his loving devotion and a life of adventure. They were married on Jan. 2, 1950 and had over 65 wonderful years together until his passing in 2015. Together they raised a large and loving family, including Michael James Reagan of Georgetown, who passed away earlier this year; Stephen Daniel Reagan of Mountain View, California; John Walton Reagan (Jewel) of Seaford; James Kevin Reagan (Tana), of Herndon, Virginia; and Elizabeth Reagan Milo (Gregg), of Yulee, Florida. Nonnie and Poppy have another “son” whom they “adopted” in their hearts, Michael Foskey (Tammy), of Lago Vista, Texas. Nonnie was the proud and loving grandmother to Joseph Patrick Reagan Milo (Caitlin) of Swedesboro, New Jersey; Tara Ann Elizabeth Abraham (Matthew) of Fairfax, Virginia; Colin McCloskey Milo of Yulee, Florida; and Jackie Skye Reagan and James Leonardo Reagan, both of Herndon, Virginia. Nonnie was a doting great-grandmother to Rita Ramsey Milo and Matthew John Abraham, and was looking forward to welcoming great-granddaughter Eliza Lee Milo in the coming days.
Together Nonnie and Poppy traveled the world, visiting all but one continent (Antarctica) and all but one state (North Dakota). During a trip to Tasmania, the captain of their commercial airliner invited Nonnie into the cockpit to help land the jumbo jet. While she had her hands on the controls throughout, Nonnie gave full credit for the landing to the co-pilot.
Nonnie was a Den Mother for the Cub Scouts, Troop Leader for the Brownies, and enjoyed hosting bridge club with friends. She loved painting, and had many creative endeavors, including dressing the store windows of Connor’s Pharmacy so beautifully that they were featured in the local newspaper. She was an avid football fan of the Delaware Blue Hens, and cheered for Navy at football games, for which she baked chocolate chip cookies all night before game day to toss to the Brigade of Midshipmen in bags signed “Love, the Cookie Monster.” When President Carter attended a game, she required Secret Service clearance for her cookies!
She was the Coordinator of the Laurel Social Services Center for the state of Delaware, where her colleagues became some of her dearest friends. She and Poppy retired to Florida, where they lived first in Palm Coast, later in Jacksonville, and finally in Westminster Woods on Julington Creek.
In 2015, Nonnie was invited to share her aviation experiences with Jacksonville University’s School of Aviation. Poppy helped her prepare, and the students celebrated her many accomplishments; she was later nominated for the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame. Recently, Nonnie transferred her Daughters of the American Revolution membership from the DC DAR to the Amelia Island Chapter, where she was warmly welcomed.
We are so fortunate to have shared an adventuresome, creative, loving, brave, and strong Mother who became a role model for each of us. We have wonderful memories of magical Christmas mornings, cross country camping trips, Jekyll Island visits, travels where Mom clambered to the top of some cliff or castle, and of late nights nibbling on her famous cookies and pound cake while planning our next adventure.
In her last hours, family surrounded Nonnie with love. We are grateful to have been able to share this time with our beautiful mother, and know that she has been reunited with Poppy, Mike, and all her beloved family members who have gone before her. We hope to honor Nonnie’s memory with good works, kind words, positive attitudes, and grand adventures.
The family is working on service arrangements that will include Memorial Masses in both Florida and Delaware in the coming weeks and months. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully suggests contributions be made to Nonnie’s favorite charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at stjude.org, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tennessee 38105-3678.
Arrangements by Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home of Mandarin, 11801 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville, FL (904) 288-0025. Please sign the guestbook at hgmandarin.com.