LITTLE JAI-YANNA had never seen Robin L. Smith out of her wheelchair, and when she was told that her beloved grandmother had died, the 5-year-old wondered, "Will grandmom walk to heaven?"
Robin doted on her two grandchildren, Jai-Yanna and 2-year-old Sanei Hames. Even when she was bedridden with multiple sclerosis and in severe pain, the arrival of the grandchildren caused her to perk right up.
"She was in so much pain you couldn't touch her," said her sister, Winnie E. Palmer. "But when her grandchildren came into her room, her eyes lit up. She would smile and call each one by name."
Robin died of complications of MS on March 30. She was 51 and was living in South Philadelphia but had lived for many years in North Philadelphia.
"She was my baby," said Winnie, who is 13 years older. "She was my heart."
Robin was a longtime corrections officer at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center, but she had dreams of being a social worker.
She attended Lincoln University and received a master's degree in social work. But she was diagnosed with MS in 1999, and her dream was not to be realized.
"Robin was a person who did not give hugs and kisses, she gave of herself," Winnie said. "She found great joy in giving.
"She played Santa Claus at Christmastime to so many children. Her reward was seeing the smiles on their faces. She made birthdays big events for young and old.
"One of her favorite sayings was, 'Are you all right? Do you need anything?' "
Robin was born in Philadelphia, one of the six children of the late Louis James Hames and Charlotte A. Van Palmer Hames. She graduated from Northeast High School.
She married Sylvester Smith on June 6, 1992, and they were rarely apart. They traveled together all over the U.S. When he became ill, she devoted herself to his care until his death on Jan. 17, 1996.
Robin didn't mind being accused of spoiling her children, Gail and Justin, and when the grandkids came along, she shamelessly spoiled them as well.
She also is survived by another sister, Harriet Wilson, and a brother, Morris A. Summers. She was predeceased by her other siblings, Ramon, Jessica and Willie.