Lillian Carmen Smith
March 1, 1934 – August 7, 2018
Lillian Smith was the daughter of Frances and Salvador Lopez, immigrants who came to America from the northwest corner of Spain. She grew up as a young girl in Hollywood, CA near the end of the golden age of cinema, and she graduated from Hollywood High School alongside classmate Carol Burnett in 1952. She later received a degree from Immaculate Heart College in 1956, where she studied under Sister Mary Corita, whose artworks Lillian later collected.
Upon graduation Lillian became a flight attendant for United Airlines. It was in the air where she met Richard [Dick] Smith, a United pilot. The two married soon thereafter and over the next 60+ years they were rarely apart. After moving to Marin County from Southern California, they raised three children: Kirsten, Douglas and Paul.
Lillian was equipped with an intelligent, curious mind and admired these traits in others. Her deep knowledge of world history—especially a fondness for Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Black Madonna—led her to embark upon frequent pilgrimages to Europe to further her research . She and Dick also joined numerous university and research expeditions to visit remote locations on seven continents, including Antarctica and Russia.
Lillian was an animated storyteller and a charmer. Her loquaciousness and dry wit encouraged conversation with both friends and strangers. She loved to say “God made man, and then She said, ‘Uh-Oh!’” to the delight of every woman she ever encountered. She was fluent in Spanish and liked to sing.
Having grown up in Hollywood, where her father was head waiter at Musso and Frank restaurant, Lillian not only loved the old Hollywood movies but knew many of the classics by heart. In fact, she could often call out the names of supporting actors, as many of them were neighbors she knew from her time living on Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood. At the time she was also obsessed with Stewart Granger. As a child she saw his film, King Solomon’s Mines 17 times, and her obsession with the actor was so great that she became president of his fan club. Once, when out with girlfriends on Hollywood Boulevard, Mr. Granger happened by and entered a restaurant. Lillian and her girlfriends waited patiently outside, noses pressed to the glass, eager to catch a glimpse of the star. On his way out he stopped, looked her right in the eyes and said simply, “Don’t you have a home?” Young Lillian gasped. However, the dismissal did not douse her flame for the actor. After all, her Hollywood prince had spoken ‘directly to her’. She carried her torch for Granger unabated for nearly 70 years.
Lillian’s parents emigrated from Galicia, Spain in the early 1900s. She was immensely proud of her Spanish ancestry and though her father vowed never to return to his homelend during Franco’s reign, she returned often with her children, spending extended time in both Galicia and Andalusia and later making a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It was on these travels that Lillian mastered the art of making paella and tortilla de patata, two heritage dishes whose recipes she later passed on to her own children.
Lillian was politically active, awake and charged with a proud liberalism. She credited her steady determination and defiance to her Castilian blood, traits clearly evidenced in two of her favorite mottos: “In for a penny, in for a pound” and “Don’t f*ck with the phantom” (with a finger held up to one eye)! Her political passions led her to work tirelessly on Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign in 1968 and for the next five decades she was a passionate supporter of liberal and environmental causes.
Despite her frequent travels, it was in Marin County where Lillian felt most at home. First in Lucas Valley and later in Tiburon, Lillian forged deep commitments within her community. Friends and family often joined her on the walking trails of Muir Woods, the Pt. Reyes Seashore, the Marin headlands, and Mt. Tam, and she was a proud supporter of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.
Lillian also had an affinity for the sea. For over 30 years she and Dick lived in a home perched above Tiburon’s Racoon Straights overlooking Angel Island. She could spend hours gazing at the water, observing seals, marine birds, and passing ships, and often used a telescope that she kept on her terrace. Her home was filled with shells gathered from beaches around the globe, while her prized possession was a Narwhal tusk, acquired on one of her many trips to Northern Canada. The tusk now resides at the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, CA. courtesy of a gift made by the Smiths in 2015. Lillian’s fashion was always to be adorned with wildlife patterns and the pearly iridescence found in gifts from the sea. The chambered nautilus was always her favorite exhibit at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences, although imperfectly understood by most, the nautilus is nonetheless a great cosmic mystery of life and Lillian understood that.
Lillian is survived by her husband, Richard “Dick” Smith, and her three children, Kirsten, Douglas, and Paul, as well as her eight grandchildren, Shelby, Jason, Kelsey, Danny, Tuilerie, Zachary, Dominic, Sydney and two great grandchildren, Rose and Aurora.
Poem - The Chambered Nautilus, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign, Sails the unshadowed main,— The venturous bark that flings On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings, And coral reefs lie bare, Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl; Wrecked is the ship of pearl! And every chambered cell, Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell, As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell, Before thee lies revealed,— Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
Year after year beheld the silent toil That spread his lustrous coil; Still, as the spiral grew, He left the past year’s dwelling for the new, Stole with soft step its shining archway through, Built up its idle door, Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee, Child of the wandering sea, Cast from her lap, forlorn! From thy dead lips a clearer note is born Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn! While on mine ear it rings, Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low-vaulted past! Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!