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Waynesboro mourns passing of 'a true believer in helping children'

Those who knew K. Marilyn Smith say she served for many, many years on school and volunteer boards

January 08, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — A Waynesboro woman who dedicated her life to nurturing the community’s children and raising them to be responsible adults died early Tuesday.

K. Marilyn Smith was 76.

Even after deciding last fall to forego treatment for advanced-stage lung cancer, Smith continued to work many nights for her beloved causes such as the Communities That Care organization. Her last conversations with family and friends included pleas that they ensure her initiatives thrive.

“She wants everything to continue,” said Craig Smith, her son.

Smith’s daughter, Karen Earley, and K. Marilyn Smith’s sister, Judi Richard, were with her when she died.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Ellsworth, 20 years ago, and another son, Kevin.

The family will receive friends from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Friday, with a memorial service to begin immediately afterward. The services will be at Trinity United Church of Christ in the town Smith started calling home after her marriage.

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Earley said her mother was initially known in Waynesboro only as “Ellsworth Smith’s wife.” Now, her name is the one entwined in the community fabric.

“I think she created her legacy,” Earley said. “She will be remembered by the programs she created.”

“She did everything for the community, everything,” Craig Smith said, saying children were his mother’s primary concern.

Those who knew her say Smith was not only a great, consistently happy person, but a doer as she served for many, many years on school and volunteer boards. Her impact was felt not just in Waynesboro but throughout the county, which had “Marilyn Smith Day” on Dec. 10.

Smith worked with more than 17 organizations such as the Youth Aid Panel, Waynesboro Area YMCA, Rotary Club of Waynesboro, Franklin Learning Center, and Waynesboro Area Business, Education and Community Foundation. She was the driving force behind Communities That Care, which educates parents about the risks of allowing underage drinking in their homes, fingerprints children, surveys youths about their perceptions of risky behaviors, and hosts events that give children opportunities to have fun without drugs or alcohol.

“It’s a huge hole that’s left. You don’t replace (someone like) Marilyn Smith, and you don’t find one person to fill all those roles,” said Alan Smith, executive director of the Waynesboro Area YMCA.

Yet, people like Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carlene Willhide say Smith taught them to embrace volunteerism and step into those roles.

“I feel honored and very, very blessed to have had her as a friend, a mentor, a leader and everything she was,” Willhide said.

“I think what she leaves behind is the framework for people to get things done. I think, out of respect for her, the ball will keep rolling,” said Alan Smith, who was not related to Marilyn Smith.

“All the service things she’s done will continue as a testament to her,” he said.

Franklin County’s drug and alcohol prevention specialist, Lauri Ryder, started working with Smith in 2006.

She described Smith as one of her mentors and heroes, calling her a “dynamo” with passion for young people.

“She truly believed that giving of yourself is the greatest thing you can do for yourself and other people,” Ryder said.

Smith, a retired community health nurse, served 16 years on the Waynesboro Area School Board.

“When we were in session, she always was concerned about what was best for the children. She was a true humanitarian. Our community has lost a true believer in helping children,” school board member Bonnie Bachtell said.

Smith was proud of the Waynesboro Area Senior High School renovations that gave students a new gymnasium and auditorium because she had a long-term vision, Bachtell said.

Smith cared for two sons and a husband with muscular dystrophy, and started pouring her time into volunteerism after her husband’s passing, according to Earley.

“She didn’t just talk the talk,” Bachtell said. “She walked the walk.”

Still, Smith did not seek recognition for what she did and performed acts of generosity in unseen ways, Willhide said.

“She believed in everything she was doing,” she said.

“She had such a heart for people. She was a giver,” Ryder said.

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