The Herald Bulletin

October 13, 2012

Fredericka Smith: 'You can't replace someone like her'

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

DALEVILLE, Ind. — James Walton and Fredericka Smith didn’t have a thing in common. Yet the two were soul mates.

“When she was killed it was like I lost my right arm,” James said of his “Jo,” as he referred to his longtime partner. “I still miss her today. I look up every once in a while and think I hear her walking down the halls. It’s tough.”

Fredericka, 67, was shot and killed by Donald Johnson, her 76-year-old ex-husband of 31 years.

Fredericka was cleaning an Anderson home that she had given to her son; earlier, she had taken paper for recycling. Her grandchildren, ages 12 and 7, were there when Johnson shot her. He pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to a 55-year prison term. He remains incarcerated.

“It happened for no reason, over useless paper she‘d taken to recycling” James said. “She didn’t do anything but help him.”

Helping people was a part of Fredericka’s nature, he said. A day didn’t go by where she didn’t help someone.

“You can’t replace someone like her,” James said. “You would talk to her for five minutes and you’d fall in love.”

Initially he met Fredericka at a club; they talked about both being truck drivers. A month later they were put on the same truck and the two drove together for 15 years. The two lived in Daleville.

James, 81, joked that they’d talked about marriage, but just “never did get around to it.”

“It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” he said. “We loved each other so much. We spent 21 years together without a cross word between us.”

James said Fredericka was one of the most positive people he’d ever met. She wouldn’t let others, and their negativity, get to her.

“She didn’t even get mad at someone,” he said. “What she always said is, ‘They probably don’t even know you are mad at them. The only person harmed is yourself because you are thinking about it.’ That’s just how she was. A complete human being.”

She was a talented belly dancer — even teaching some classes. Before Fredericka became a truck driver she was a high school foreign language teacher but decided she could make a better living driving a truck, a decision that brought the two of them together, James said. She had a masters in linguistics and could speak French, German, Spanish and some Russian.

Fredericka was addicted to reading and fascinated with the English language.

“Life isn’t the same without her,” he said.