Remembering Val Series: 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here is another remembrance of our founder, Val. This one is from her long time friend and MWR board member, Karen Brown.


Crossed Paths

Looking back, I think it was ordained for Val and I to cross paths. Odds were against it, in normal conditions. My husband and I had recently moved to Coldwater, MS on 15 acres in very rural Tate County. There were a few trees on property requiring their removal for safety reasons. Unknown to us, a nest of Flying Squirrels was destroyed in felling one of the trees, resulting in 3 orphaned very young babies. The local veterinarian provided a phone number and name of ‘a lady who dropped by with a business card’ offering to take any wildlife in need of care. Traveling on unfamiliar back roads from Coldwater to Lake Cormorant without GPS was iffy but finally pulled up to Val’s house with the baby squirrels. We met in the driveway, shook hands and I asked her what she was doing and how. I was escorted into her house—past various small animal cages—and down to the basement which was OP Central of her efforts. I was impressed with her obvious caring and ability to minister to these needy bodies. Val explained she was hoping to grow her small rehab to enable more birds and animals to benefit from her knowledge. So, I stayed 2 hours and we began a friendship that would span 27 years until her death. Oh, and I did leave a donation which may have been why she initially liked me… 😊 At that point in time, she was doing almost everything herself—I believe there was one person she had trained to care for songbirds. Val needed help.

We began talking regularly and slowly I learned a bit of her history. Prior to moving to Lake Cormorant with her family, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis which left her immobilized at times and severely affected her eyesight. Val told me her grandmother was part Indian and passed her love and respect of all living things to her. She shared with me that one of her prayers was to find healing to allow her to care for her family and to rescue needy wildlife. I discovered she had immersed herself in “Rehab Classes” and learning State and Federal requisites and laws to become a legitimate non-profit animal rehabilitation organization. The first few years was a round of bake sales, yard sales, and begging cage materials to feed and care for a growing number of intakes. We were a Board of two for awhile, when Val’s prayers, perseverance, passion and vision came together and real growth began, slowly and steadily. That first grant gave us $2000 to purchase materials for cages to be constructed by scouts and organizations—a great win for the animals and MWR Inc. Rehab. Classes were held to recruit additional trained rehabbers and Board members added for a balanced organization.

Our friendship grew fast and firm almost from day one. Almost-daily talks became interspersed with multiple texts of everyday happenings and soul to soul. Lunches at AC’s in Hernando were a regular occurrence of 2 – 3 hours full of laughter and sometimes tears. Val had a way of making each of us feel we were her most special… and we were. She loved mightily her God, her family and friends, and MWR Inc. and in that order, I believe. I am so very grateful for her friendship and the love we shared, brought about by 3 orphaned flying squirrels. It has been an honor to be associated with Valery Smith through MWR Inc., to watch it grow and become forever friends.

She is missed most exceedingly.

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