Mary Ellen Smith

  • "May you rest in eternal peace Mary Ellen. The love you..."
    - Ruth McNary-Albert
  • "Bishop Smith, Jim and I have been praying for Mary Ellen's..."
  • "Our deepest sympathy and condolences in your family's great..."
    - Debbie Bjork (Hope Chapel)
  • "May God comfort you with his peace as you place Mary Ellen..."
    - Deacon Janice Miller
  • "Mary Ellen was a gentle soul. Love and condolences to all..."
    - Eloise Evans

Mary Ellen Smith, the wife of The Rt. Rev Dabney Smith, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, died March 20, 2012 at the Smith's home in Manatee County.Bishop Smith, married to Mary Ellen Smith for 36 years, describes her as his 'closest confidant.' 'She revealed herself to me in ways that I was awed by,' said Smith. 'She was a life-giving and life-affirming presence.' Mary Ellen Krieg Smith was born in Washington D.C. on August 29, 1955, the youngest of the three children of Joseph and Bertha Krieg. Smith's childhood was spent in Fairfax, Virginia. The family moved to Daytona Beach when she was 13, when her father retired from his moving and storage business.Bishop Smith met Mary Ellen Krieg in Daytona Beach in June 1973 when he had come back home after his freshman year at Florida State. They had both attended the same high school, but did not know each other. The couple met through Dabney Smith's younger sister, Donna. They were married in October, 1975. When he finished university, he returned to Daytona, where he worked in public relations and she went to school to become an L.P.N., later receiving her bachelor's degree in special education at the University of Central Florida.Even before Smith's ministry call, and while he was working in the public relations department of the Halifax Medical Center, she understood that there was to be something else for them. 'She knew I was supposed to be doing something more,' said Smith.She saw her life's work with husband Dabney as a joint ministry. When Smith began seminary in 1984 with three young children, she managed to be not only there for the family completely, but also participate fully as the 'much beloved' spouse of a seminarian. Father Michael Basden, who became close to the Smiths while he and Dabney Smith were fellow seminarians at Nashotah House in Wisconsin, said that she did this even as they lived miles away from campus in an old rectory.'Anywhere Mary Ellen went, she had an aura of peace and tranquility,' said Basden. 'When you were with Mary Ellen, she was fully present, 100 percent engaged.' At their first church, St. Michael's in South Bend, Indiana, she jumped into the church's youth ministry, teaching the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. As their children grew up and they moved churches to Melbourne, Florida she continued teaching Sunday school and enriched the lives of many parishioners with her warmth and grace. While in New Orleans, and in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Smith went back into medical work at the St. Thomas Health Clinic.'She tolerated moves and resettling and relocating the family,' says Basden. 'Mary Ellen did all of those transitions remarkably well, never feeling resentful.' The youngest of three, she took care of her mother Bertha from childhood to age 86, as she suffered from brittle diabetes. Through most of their married lives, Mary Ellen was a caretaker, not only to her mother but to her mother-in-law, Dorothy Smith. For one year, she took care of both women in the Smiths' home. In her quiet time, she liked to garden.'Mary Ellen is gifted with the spirit of hospitality … and gracious. Just completely gracious,' said Bishop Smith. 'She had the ability to make anyone feel comfortable and cared for.' Bishop Smith describes his wife as a strong spiritual person, who had 'great depth of prayer.' She regularly prayed the Book of Common Prayer liturgy, as well as other devotionals. 'She just liked to start her day in quiet that way.' In church, he found strength from her, too. 'I would always look for her in the congregation,' said Smith. 'It made me feel right when I could see where she was.' When she moved back to Florida in 2007 as the wife of the new Bishop of Southwest Florida, she regularly attended spouse events at House of Bishops meetings and the 2008 Lambeth Conference. 'She was a blessed and loving presence wherever she went, and will be deeply missed,' said the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.She is survived by her brother, Joseph Krieg, son Dabney, and daughters Ashton Williston and Alicia Caputo, as well as grandchildren Emma Caputo and Isabella and Abigail Williston. Daughter Alicia, who now teaches at St. James in Ormond Beach, describes her as the perfect Catechesis teacher, 'Very calm and patient and quiet in nature.'Throughout her illness, she continued to impart strength to her family, consoling daughter Ashton. 'She said yes, I am peaceful, because I get to go on a great adventure.' The Funeral Liturgy honoring the life of Mary Ellen Smith will be held at The Cathedral Church of St. Peter's, St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, March 31, 2012 beginning at 10:00a.m. Arrangements by Griffith-Cline Funeral Home.

Published in The Bradenton Herald on Mar. 24, 2012
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