It all started innocently enough. Leontine (Lee) Smith was a shy teenager living in the Bronx in the early 1940's, when word came that Frank Sinatra was coming to New York City to perform. She never made it to that concert, but she never let go of her dream to finally meet her favorite crooner.

It all started innocently enough. Leontine (Lee) Smith was a shy teenager living in the Bronx in the early 1940's, when word came that Frank Sinatra was coming to New York City to perform. She never made it to that concert, but she never let go of her dream to finally meet her favorite crooner.

Smith moved from "the city that never sleeps" to Connecticut in 1945, where she eventually landed a job handling payroll at Orange Hills Country Club, a nine-hole golf course on Racebrook Road.

"I sold golf tickets, I sold hot dogs," she recalls. "Whatever needed to get done I did."

But then something happened that she never expected: she met her soon-to-be husband, Walter.

"Walter's father owned the golf course," said Lee. "I fell in love with Walter the first time I saw him."

But there was to be a long courtship. There was a great deal of work to be done since plans were in motion to expand the course to 18 holes. Walter was sent to the University of Connecticut to earn a degree in Agronomy (Agricultural Economics), an education vital to a business that makes its money off green grass and Lee kept busy at the course, which now handles a record 35,000 golfers per year.

Eight years later, they were married. Lee said they are the proud parents of Jud, who now works as course superintendent, and Judy Smith-Morgan, general manager of Orange Hills and mother of Justin, 10; Jennifer Lee, 7; and Rebecca, 5.

Lee and Walter reside at Journey's End, a charming, 18th century-style house the couple had built in 1978 on the old Moriarty Farm site, a parcel of land adjacent to the 170 acres that comprise Orange Hills Country Club.

Over the years, the course has seen the likes of celebrities like Lee Trevino and U.S. Open tennis champion Goram Ivanisevic.

Lee admits it hasn't been all smooth sailing. The longtime Orange resident said she owes her life to God—and a highly skilled surgeon. Her health was on shaky ground in 1980, when she was rushed to the Cleveland Clinic for heart bypass surgery.

"But that first operation failed," said Smith, petting her dog, Daisy, in the charming Colonial living room of her spacious home. "They told me I was going to die."

The doctors then told her the only option was to risk a second bypass operation.

"I asked the Lord, if it's your will, let me live," she said.

Apparently, it was His will, since Smith survived that second surgery and has gone on for decades to thrive. Smith claims something changed after her close brush with death on the operating table.

"I was such a perfectionist before the surgery," said Smith. "But I changed. I'm giving back to people now."

She said she gets most of her energy from the good feelings that come from helping others. That includes her charity work, like running the Red Cross Golf Benefit (which hostage Terry Anderson has hosted), the 5th annual of which is coming up again this June. She also helps run the Orange Little League Benefit and the Chuck Boyle Memorial Tournament to help Boyle's wife, Barbara, and their children.

Her latest project has been establishing an educational scholarship in the name of her recently deceased son, Paul W. Smith, a child from her first marriage.

She said she also takes time to enjoy the little things now, like listening to the opera La Boheme and reading a good espionage thriller. She is also fond of the historical novels written by the popular author Maeve Binchy.

And although she admits that parts of her life have not been easy ones, Lee said she has never believed in giving up.

"Mom has been a wonderful role model," said Judy, Smith's daughter. "Growing up she taught me that, as a woman, you could pursue any career you wanted to."

Shortly after her medical scare, Lee's biggest dream came true. She discovered she was going to Foxwoods to see Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

"I can't tell you what it was like to know I was going to see him," said Lee. "We got tickets for as close to the stage as possible and when he came on stage to start singing, I just couldn't get over it."

Apparently, neither could Frank, because he bent over the edge of the stage to grab Lee's hand.

"I told him he was the greatest performer in the world and that he had changed my life," she fondly recalls. Sinatra then handed her the traditional token of love, his handkerchief, which she still pulls out from time to time to stare at. Their exchange ended up on the front page of the New York Times.

She said she always had faith, despite all the years that had passed since that time as a teenager in the Bronx, that some day she would meet up with her favorite singer.

"It's faith that has gotten me through so much," she said. "The greatest gift you can give someone is faith."