Athena Smith Ford, 33, died Oct. 23, 2016, in Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. Athena died in the arms of her brother, Austin (Mountain Top), with her mother, Diane Smith (Kingston), father, Tom Ford, and stepmother, Maureen Cosgrove (Mount Pocono), at her bedside. Athena died of complications from an automobile collision on Oct. 7, 2015, when she was a seat-belted passenger and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Athena never regained consciousness.
Over the past year, her family and friends visited Athena virtually daily, and worked together to supplement her therapies, entertain her, complete all her paperwork, advocate for her with facilities, research possible therapies and so much more. Athena received emotional and financial support from hundreds of friends and strangers touched by her life story, which helped give Athena the best chance at recovery and survival.
Athena was not a perfect woman; she could be stubborn, she made mistakes, she didn’t clean her room as often as her parents would have preferred. But her entire life was marked by a sincere empathy, care and concern for others, in fact for all living beings.
For her 16th birthday, Athena refused gifts and required her party guests to bring food for a local pantry. She collected more than 500 pounds of non-perishables, and insisted that the donation be anonymous (oops, we just let it slip, sorry, Athena). In August 2001, working with a local state representative, she organized a public demonstration bringing to light abuses by the Taliban in Afghanistan, more than a month before 9/11.
After college, she was a community organizer in Philadelphia for Working America, helping working class families have their voices heard. For most of the last eight years she tirelessly worked in the field of health insurance reform, first for the support and passage of the ACA with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, then as the statewide advocacy director for the Pennsylvania Health Action Network. Athena then became statewide advocacy director for Florida’s CHAIN, taking on the same struggle there.
Wherever she went, whatever she did, she touched people and did what she could to make their lives better. In working on her assistance applications, her family discovered that, even in her most spare economic situations, she gave at least a little every month, through modest recurring donations, to organizations for which she cared deeply.
Athena was born March 30, 1983, in Cleveland, Ohio, was a 2001 graduate of MMI Preparatory School in Freeland and a 2007 graduate of her beloved Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
Additional survivors include her devoted grandparents, Donald and Nancy Smith; her loving stepfather, Robert “Jake” Jastremski; her beloved sister-in-law, Katie Ford; and her niece, Leona Ford. She was fortunate to have her devoted aunt, Nancy Smith Bayley (Kevin), who provided her a remarkable amount of professional assistance and love throughout her recovery, and her aunt, Mary Hrubowchak (David), who was a constant medical adviser to her family. Athena is also survived by her nutty and loved uncle, Don Smith (Susie); aunts, Karen Ford and Sharon Green (Dean); uncle, Alan Ford; as well as by her much-loved hiking companion, her dog, Dillon.
Athena will be cremated and her ashes scattered privately by her family in the woods, preserves and hiking spots she most loved.
All are invited to a celebration of Athena’s life, beginning at 1 p. m. Nov. 6 at the Nescopeck Social Hall, 510 Zenith Road, Nescopeck. The family will receive well wishers from 1 to 3 p. m., after which they will join whomever wishes to remain, as long as they wish to remain, in joyfully remembering Athena and celebrating her life. Light food and refreshments will be served.
In lieu of flowers, please honor Athena’s life by helping a stranger when they need a hand, by loving your neighbors, and by caring for the planet.