Carol M. Smith
What a Woman!
After a lifetime of service to others, our adventuring angel has journeyed home. For over ninety years, she personified infinite love. For some, the name Carol M. Smith stirs fond memories of the 1950s & ‘60s Santa Barbara YMCA camping, Tri-Hi-Y, and Youth & Government programs. For others, it brings forth her twenty-three years as Senior Recreation Supervisor, most notably at the Louise Lowry Davis Center. For members of the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls club, the “Carol M. Smith Bowling Green” will always remind players of her commitment to the club and “never-give-up” perseverance. For all whose lives she touched, her name encourages us to live as she did: with faith, courage, joy, curiosity, and abiding love.
Born at Christmastime, just below the HOLLYWOOD sign, Carol Talbot Immanuel Mellin spent her childhood in Manhattan Beach, and there began her love for the sea, shoreline strolls, and sunsets. After graduating from L.A. High in 1945, she studied geology & social sciences at UCLA, earned her B.A. in 1949, and thus became a lifelong, true-blue Bruin.
Soon after, Carol began her remarkable twenty-year career at the Santa Barbara YMCA. As Girls Program Director (nee “Secretary), she organized several hundred teens into over thirty Tri-Hi-Y clubs. Under her gentle and fun-loving guidance, clubs performed service projects, organized events, and fostered leadership skills. She was a pioneer leader of the YMCA Youth & Government Model Legislature program – which continues to this day. Under her direction, hundreds of high schoolers drafted and debated legislation, elected statewide officials, and held court proceedings – all culminating in annual trips to Sacramento for sessions in the actual legislative chambers and cabinet offices at the capitol. More than a few real legislators got their start in YMCA Youth & Government.
Carol also began the Santa Barbara Y’s Pre-School program – still going strong. But it was Y Camp she loved most; for she was a Camp Director Extraordinaire who brought out the best in counselors and campers alike. Through Day Camp at the Y, Girls Camp on Catalina, in the Malibu Hills and San Bernardino Mountains, and Family Camp at Sequoia Lake, literally thousands of children and parents benefitted from her extraordinary ability to organize, lead, and inspire. She was a masterful story-teller and beautifully expressive song leader. At the center of it all, was her spirit of loving, joyful service.
It was in the old downtown Y (where Ralph’s is now) that Carol met Robert C. Smith, out of the army, living at the Y, and serving as a Hi-Y leader for boys. They married in 1952; and she thus became Carol M. Smith. With children Robin and William, they were a YMCA family.
In 1969, the Louise Lowry Davis Recreation Center opened, with Carol M. Smith as its first director. In addition to coordinating activities and creating the center’s volunteer corps, she supervised the city’s lawn bowling clubs. Boss Bill Bertka said, “If you’re gonna supervise them, you’d better learn how to play.” So she learned the game, loved teaching it, and became a champion bowler in tournaments near and far.
Beyond professionally, Carol found many ways to serve others. She was a core member and president of Zonta Club – raising funds for scholarships worldwide, a board member at the former City Employees Credit Union, the first woman to chair the Santa Barbara YMCA Board, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club 1980 “Woman of the Year”. When her hearing failed, she joined the local Hearing Loss Association and was instrumental in getting loop systems installed in some of our public buildings. And she faithfully served her church for over sixty years.
Carol retired from the city in 1993 and promptly took up watercolor painting. For the rest of her life, she traveled, painted, and lawn bowled worldwide; and when at home, she still found ways to serve. In 2010, in recognition of her 40 years of dedicated service to the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club, the upper green at Spencer Adams Park was named The Carol M. Smith Green.
Traveling to learn, Carol completed thirty Elderhostel & Road Scholar programs on five continents. She swam with seals in the Galapagos, snorkeled over the Great Barrier Reef, strolled the shore at the Sea of Galilee, and explored the ruins at Machu Picchu – to name but a few of her amazing adventures. History and culture nourished her mind. The natural world fed her soul. And her beautiful paintings brought the adventures home.
Enduring faith in God’s infinite love saw her through husband Bob’s death in 1989 and son Bill’s in 2014. Not even a stroke in 2015 could keep her down. With wonderful help from skilled therapists at Valle Verde and Cottage Rehab., she returned to lawn bowling and launched the “Never Give Up Gals”, showing us all what strength of spirit can do.
Mom loved walking “our beach” at sunset. When it grew cold, she relished midday visits to watch the children and marvel at the ocean’s ever-changing beauty. She never gave up her quest for knowledge and adventure; and so became “co-pilot” supreme on our RV road trips to nature’s scenic wonders. Her most beloved place was Yosemite; so it was fitting that in early October, mom’s last earthly journey was to see that magnificent creation once more. Her indomitable spirit made each day and every journey a joyful blessing.
On November 18, at home, with loved ones bedside her, Carol M. Smith peacefully began her next adventure.
Thank you to Sr. Helpers and caregivers Candice, JoJo, Josie, Giana, and Giovanna – the loving and skilled members of “Team Carol”. You helped mom live her final three years to the fullest.
A song and story-filled celebration of Carol M. Smith’s well-lived life will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 2:00 PM in the Louise Lowry Davis Center at 1232 De La Vina Street. Afterwards (weather permitting) there will be a ceremonial rolling of bowls on the adjacent Carol M. Smith Green.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation, in her honor, to the Santa Barbara Family YMCA Campership program.
Maya Angelou wrote, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Carol M. Smith put this into practice each and every day. She will be remembered as one who made countless others feel valued and loved.