Vanessia (Vanessa) Marie Smith Alexander was born in Kansas City, Missouri on July 26, 1959 to parents William Smith of Roland, Arkansas and Zella Ersery Smith of Morrilton, Arkansas. She was the seventh of ten children. Ms.Shirley Neely was also an instrumental caregiver to Vanessa and her siblings. From an early age she and her family were steeped in Christian faith. As members of Canaan Baptist Church, they spent much time in Sunday school under Rev. Poe and looked forward to the church’s summer cookouts. Extending this faith to her children, Vanessa attended Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship Church in San Diego, where they were baptized.
Vanessa was educated in the Kansas City, Missouri public school system. She attended Wendell Phillips Elementary, was crowned 8th grade Queen of Lincoln Jr. High School, and participated in the drill team at Lincoln Sr. High School before graduating in 1977.
As a youth, Vanessa mastered and delighted in roller skating and going out to two-step dance parties with her brother, Stan. Black history was her favorite subject in high school. She became a skilled tailor, making outfits for her daughters’ performances and other special occasions. Vanessa was strong and resolute. Always known as one who could ‘hold her own’, she was both personable and fierce.
In November 1978 she welcomed her only son, Mark Ricky Alexander to life. In September 1981 she had her first daughter, Ryann Michelle Alexander Abdullah, and birthed her youngest daughter Candyce Joi Alexander in August, 1982. Her children enjoyed a wonderful and active childhood. Vanessa joyfully participated in their academic and extracurricular activities. She loved being a part of the Skyline Tigers Pop Warner football family, where her son played, and daughters cheered for several years. Vanessa was the first African American female head coach of a boys San Diego American Senior League baseball team - the Blue Jays of Memorial Park in Logan Heights.
Vanessa was exceptionally proud of her family. A remarkable mother, she instilled in her children a reverence for elders, self-respect, strong work ethic and an ear for good music. She loved to speak to and video chat with her grandchildren Bailey, Markus, Amina and Anisa. Spending time with them was her special joy.
While raising her children as a single mother was a lifelong career, she also liked working with people. She particularly enjoyed her time at the US Grant Hotel and Oak Park Elementary School.
Her transition leaves endless cherished memories for her children, Mark Alexander of Atlanta, Georgia; Ryann (Luqman) Abdullah of Silver Spring, Maryland; and Candyce Alexander of San Diego, California. She will also be lovingly remembered by her 4 grandchildren, and 7 surviving siblings: Vercella Brady, Gwendolyn Smith, Harriet Haynes, Stanley Smith, Rhonda Smith, Kimberly Smith, Felicea Smith, and a host of extended family and friends. She transitioned into eternal life September 25, 2021.