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Barbara Smith Theis

October 18, 1931 ~ April 30, 2021 (age 89)


Barbara Anne Smith Theis, 89, of Nacogdoches, Texas, passed away April 30, 2021. Barbara was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on October 18, 1931 to Elbert Wilson Smith and Eunice Lumsden Richardson Smith.

After receiving her B.A. double majoring in Spanish and French from Greensboro College, Barbara earned her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Vanderbilt University in 1954. She taught French, Spanish and Journalism at the high school level before becoming a missionary to Cuba from 1956 until 1959 serving under the United Methodist Church. Teaching was her passion and she taught English as a Foreign Language at Colegio Buenavista and Candler University in Havana during the Cuban Revolution. While in Cuba, she corresponded with another young missionary John Joseph “Jack” Theis, Jr. whom she met during missionary training and who was serving in Seoul, Korea. They were engaged through the mail and married upon their return to the United States in 1959.

The newlyweds both studied at Boston University School of Theology and raised money for Angels’ Haven, a home Jack had founded for beggar boys living on the streets of Seoul after the Korean War. The couple moved to Seoul, Korea in 1960 where Barbara later worked in staff language development at Holt International Adoption Agency and served as a Professor of English as a Foreign Language at the university level as well as at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul. Barbara and Jack would have five children and ultimately retired in 1994, moving from Seoul to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Barbara and Jack were instrumental in the growth and welfare of the Tulsa Korean United Methodist Church. In 2017, they moved to Nacogdoches and began attending the First United Methodist Church here.

Barbara was predeceased by her husband, Jack, one infant daughter, Stephanie Anne Theis, one young adult grandson, Jacob Wilson Theis and her younger brother, Stephen Charles Smith.

Survivors include son John Joseph “Jay” Theis, III and wife, Tunya of Kingwood, Texas; son Matthew Wilson Theis and wife, Janet of Pearland, Texas; daughter Deborah Elaine Theis and Dean Parét of Pearland, Texas; daughter Trish Theis Smith and husband, Russell of Nacogdoches, Texas; 10 grandchildren, Sarah Theis and Melvin Reed, III of Pearland, Texas, Samantha Damian and husband, Juan of Kansas City, Missouri, Angela Theis of Brooklyn, New York, Alex Hedge of Houston, Texas, and James Hedge of Pearland, Texas, Sarene, Sierra, Harrison, Sterling and Steele Smith of Nacogdoches, Texas; 3 great-grandchildren, Harper and Spencer Damian of Kansas City, Missouri, Melvin “M4” Reed, IV of Pearland, Texas; and 2 brothers, Bert Smith and wife, Beth of Austin, Texas, and Rich Smith and wife, Sarene of Spring, Texas; as well as nieces and nephews.

Memorial service to be held at 2:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Nacogdoches on Sunday, May 16, 2021. Masks will be required. The service will be available via Zoom or Facebook Live by simply going to to connect.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made payable to The Board of Global Ministries of the UMC (note in the memo line “Stephanie A. Theis Children’s Endowment Fund”) and dropped off or mailed to First United Methodist Church, 201 E. Hospital Street, Nacogdoches, Texas 75961.

Online guestbook is available at or memories and condolences.


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Celebration of Life
May 16, 2021

2:00 PM
First United Methodist Church | Nacogdoches
201 E. Hospital Street
Nacogdoches, Texas 75961

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