Hurricane Katrina

Janice Decorte Smith, 40, Pass Christian

Janice Decorte Smith loved reading and being in the kitchen.

These two loves combined into an extensive cookbook collection that her son, Jeremy Smith, said was one of her prized possessions.

Despite the impressive array of options, one of the simplest dishes was her favorite, Jeremy said.

"Meatloaf was always the best thing she cooked," Jeremy said.

Jeremy and friend Michael Ramirez would save their money and take Smith, 40, and Smith's mother, Rosemary Decorte, 73, out to dinner, since Smith sometimes cared for the three of them and two other children, son Freddie Ashley Jr. and daughter Janelle Ashley.

Smith would frequently unwind by reading a wide variety of books, Jeremy said. The last thing Jeremy said he remembers her reading was a Christian devotional book.

Ramirez said he talked to Smith shortly before the storm. Smith told him she and her mother would stay because she had survived Hurricane Camille and Katrina would not be as bad.