Mary Elizabeth Williams Smith, age 94, the eldest and only girl of four children born to Mary Hewlett Walters and Leroy Davis Williams, passed away peacefully on June 25, 2020, at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community in Harrisonburg, Va., where she had lived since January 2016. She was born in Coronada Beach, Fla., on March 13, 1926. She moved with her family to Christiansburg, Va., at the age of four to grow up with loving grandparents, George and Bessie Walters.
Mary graduated from Christiansburg High School in 1943 and from Virginia Tech in 1947. While at Tech she met Richard Holladay Smith Jr. and they married in 1948. She and Dick moved to Harrisonburg, Va. in 1954. They were married for 65 years. Mary and Dick raised five children and she was an active participant in many activities in the community. After living for many years in Harrisonburg, Mary and Dick moved to Three Gables in Mount Crawford, and then settled for their final years together in Bridgewater.
Mary loved all aspects of nature. She was a wild flower enthusiast and she and Dick were avid birders. She was a member of Asbury United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg, where she taught Sunday school, led two different Girl Scout troops, and served on many church committees. She was a member of the Medical Auxiliary and volunteered for many years in the hospital gift shop. She was a charter member and past president of the Rockingham Bird Club and a charter member of the Rockingham Wildlife Alliance. Mary passed her love of nature, birds, flower arranging, and gardening on to her children who engage in similar activities in their own lives. She surrounded her family with books and beauty in the form or her many collections of treasures found in nature, Valley antiques, bird nests, eggs, artwork, and vases filled with her lovely flower arrangements. She had an eye for decorating and created comfortable “nests” in which to raise her family. She loved to read poetry and other literature aloud with Dick and her children and grandchildren. She was also a fine photographer and enjoyed photographing both birds and wild flowers.
Mary and Dick both enjoyed gardening and worked as a team to plan and implement beautiful garden designs at all the homes they inhabited over their many years together. Mary was a lively storyteller and would regale her family and friends with tales from her past, of birding outings, hiking trips and vacations. Even a dull story became enthralling when delivered by Mary! Mary had a wonderful sense of humor and laughed heartily with friends and family as they shared time together.
Surviving are four of her five children, Deborah Elizabeth Mertz (Ted), Ann Alexandra “Sandy” Heitz, Richard Holladay Smith III (Diane), and Sarah Kempton Barger (Jerry); a son-in-law, Eldon Layman; 15 grandchildren, Greg (Kara), Peter (Erica) and David (Truc) Mertz, Katherine and Sarah Heitz, Erin, David (Jess) and Michael Layman, Annie Layman Smith (Barry), Joel (Jenna) and Aaron (Cassie) Smith, Ben Barger, Jesse Barger Laase (George), Dwain Wood (Emily), Jessica Rhodenizer (Eric); and 14 great-grandchildren.
Mary was predeceased by her loving husband, Richard Holliday Smith Jr., a beloved daughter, Mary Pamela Layman, and a dear son-in-law, Thomas Benjamin Heitz. She was also predeceased by her parents, three younger brothers, Leroy Davis Williams Jr., Dr. George Kempton Williams, and Dr. Edwin Leon Williams.
Mary will be lovingly remembered by her friends and family. She will be greatly missed by all. It is hoped that when you think of Mary you will remember her with a pair of binoculars slung around her neck and flower pruners in each hand!
A private graveside service will be conducted at Woodbine Cemetery. A memorial service to celebrate Mary’s life will be planned for June 2021. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Asbury United Methodist Church Building Fund, 205 South Main St., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, 1501 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.