There's no place like home

  By Jennifer Lassiter
  star staff
  jlassiter@starhq.com
  Home is where the heart is, and that is especially true for one Elizabethton woman and her family. Their home near Milligan College is adorned with a sign above their door that reads: "Home Sweet Home".
  Shelly Smith grew up in California, and most of her younger years were spent on the road traveling with her lifetime partner, Ray Smith, a former Elizabethton Twins baseball player. While Ray played ball, they traveled to Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Ohio and while in Elizabethton during the summer playing season they stayed with the Bishop family.
  "We chose to move here to Elizabethton when I was pregnant with Hannah. It's a nice place to raise a family," said Smith.
  A room dedicated to her native home is the only reminder of her origins in the South Pacific. Painted a soft, clean sand color, the walls of her formal living room display photographs of a paradise get-a-way, that many of us can only imagine. A palm tree pillow, Hawaiian beads and a tropical lamp that Ray bought accompany the black and white photo of her mother, a true princess.
  Swains Island is a small island, only about one square mile. It is one of the Somoa Islands, and where Smith traces her unforgettable heritage. Before marrying Ray and becoming a Smith, Shelly was a Jennings. The Jennings have owned the small island for about 100 years.
  As the story is told by Shelly, her grandfather traveled to Swains Island where he became smitten with her mom and won the island in a poker game, making him the new king of the sand and coral island rich with vegetation.
  A box of photos and a scrapbook of letters filled with the native Polynesian language are preserved for years to come. The Island, which is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded, still belongs to her family. The privately owned Swains Island sends one nonvoting member to the territorial legislature.
  The last 18 years of her life have been dedicated to homeschooling her daughter, Hannah, who will be attending Milligan this fall and perfecting her gift baskets, which she sells at the Lady Bug store in Elizabethton.
  Hannah decided to stay near home to attend college. "I really like the atmosphere at Milligan," said Hannah. Hannah has met many friends while performing in the Tipton-Haynes historic re-enactment performances, and hanging out with her dad who is the assistant athletic director at Milligan.
  With a home more pleasant than Martha Stewart's, Smith takes pride in the smallest of details. Whether she's serving her special friendship tea or just simply having a conversation, she takes great care in perfecting her home in the hills.