Cover photo for Dena M. Smith's Obituary
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1959 Dena 2024

Dena M. Smith

October 30, 1959 — June 2, 2024


Dena Marie Smith was born on October 30, 1959, in Chicago, IL, to Judith McMillan. Her grandmother Rose and her Uncle Billy were an important part of Dena's life, and she loved them dearly. Dena grew up on the mean streets of Chicago's south side, where she attended public school, until she and her mother Judy moved to Indianapolis in 1970. There, Dena enrolled in the Indiana School for the Blind. Although she was legally blind, Dena never let that stop her from doing any and everything that she wanted to do. While attending the Blind School, Dena met Kim Caseltine, who would be a part of Dena's life until it ended way too soon. Dena also made many other life-long friends at the Blind School, including Chonda Connell and Alice Ritchhart. Dena graduated from the Blind School in 1978.

Dena loved sports. Even after moving to Indianapolis, she remained a devoted Chicago Cubs fan, and became a Colts fan when the franchise moved to Indy. She was overjoyed to watch the Cubs win the World Series and the Colts win the Super Bowl. She was also an avid Pacers fan. While at the Blind School, she was an accomplished Goalball player. In addition, Dena greatly enjoyed bowling. After graduation, Dena joined the Marion County Blind Bowling Association, where she met Vicki Hutton, whose husband was also blind. Thus began a deep friendship that would last until Dena took her last breath.

Along with Kim and Vicki, Dena attended church services at Brookside United Methodist Church for many years. She and Vicki became staff members of the Brookside Church Youth Program, where Dena met her dear friend, Paula Moss, and her four children. After Brookside United Methodist Church was closed by the denomination, Dena, Paula, and Vicki continued to work together as staff members of the Brookside Youth Program for several years. Through the youth program, Dena touched many lives of the youth of the area and their families, and will always be fondly remembered for her compassion and caring.

Dena also worked for a while at Pizza Hut. She started just answering phones, but in a few short months, was promoted to manager. Her staff loved her, and many of the drivers would admit they would come in to help during rush times only on those days when Dena was the shift manager.

Dena made friends everywhere she went. She was smart, had a great sense of humor, and people were drawn to her inner goodness. Although Dena had no children of her own, she had a great love for children. Over the years, she (along with Judy, Kim, and Vicki, at various times) made a home for and cared for many children of other friends and family members. Many of those children, now with families of their own, will tell you that Dena was like a second mother to them, including her godson, DeCarlos Connell, who to Dena was simply "my son."

While at the Brookside Youth Program, Dena met Brandon Gray. When Brandon started his musical career as a rap artist, he didn't think twice in asking Dena to become his manager. She willingly agreed and spent much time and effort in helping Brandon develop his career over the years, including a trip to Columbia Records in Manhattan.

Dena loved to travel. When she was younger, she enjoyed several trips with friends to places such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Kings Island, and Colorado Springs, but always by car or bus because she refused to fly. Over the years, the gang of four (Dena, Kim, Paula, and Vicki) remained fast friends, and enjoyed several trips to Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Gatlinburg and frequent excursions to the local casinos. In 2019, Paula joined Vicki and Dena as roommates, and the three waited out the pandemic together in 2020, with frequent visits from Kim.

Dena enjoyed watching movies and TV shows, especially old classics like The Andy Griffith Show, the Munsters, and Little House on the Prairie. She had her favorite episodes, which she would watch over and over and over again. She had a love of all kinds of music, from gospel to rap. Dena had a wonderful memory and remembered details most of us had long forgotten. Not long ago, when she and Kim were watching TV, a commercial for the old-time Good & Plenty candy came on, and Dena remembered every word of the jingle and sang along. Dena collected hats (particularly ball caps) and keychains, amassing hundreds of each. She also collected frogs, and her home was filled with frog statues, mugs, blankets, cups, t-shirts, and much much more.

Although she could be a picky eater, Dena enjoyed all types of food. Steak and ribs were among her favorites, and a good piece of sweet potato pie was always appreciated. She was a big candy fan, with Skittles being a particular favorite.

Dena loved animals, and over the years, had many cats and dogs. She never forgot her Snowball, Rocky, Gizzy, and Briggs who passed on, and loved her newest, little Pekoe, with all her heart.

Dena was a skilled poet and took special care to write poems for the memorial services of friends and family members, which were greatly appreciated by their loved ones.

Dena's health worsened over the last few years, suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, and COPD, and she became dependent upon oxygen. Dena's friends, Kim and Vicki, doubled as her caregivers, a labor of love they were honored to perform. Dena rarely complained and never lost her zest for life.

Dena went on to her eternal home in Heaven on June 2, 2024, at the age of 64, where she joined her mother Judy, her grandmother Rose, her Uncle Billy, and many other friends and family members who preceded her in death. Dena is survived by her closest friends, Vicki Hutton, Kim Caseltine, and Paula Moss; her cousin, William Ingram; her nieces, Anika Casey (Chris), Amber Chism, Adriana Bowen (Louis), Alicia Langford (Richard), and Amanda Sanders (James); and a host of other family and friends too numerous to mention.

Heaven has gained a beautiful new angel. We will miss you, Dena, more than words can say, but we know you will be the first to welcome us when we make that final journey!

Visitation will be held on Saturday, June 15, 2024 from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm with a funeral service at 1:00 pm at Indiana Funeral Care, 8151 Allisonville Rd. Indianapolis, IN 46250. 

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