Mildred Smith Hepburn
1921 - 2015
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Mildred Smith Hepburn

AGE: 94 • White Plains

Mildred Joanne Smith Hepburn, a Broadway and film actress, and teacher for the White Plains School System, died on July 19. She was 94. Born in Struthers, Ohio, Ms. Hepburn performed as Mildred Joanne Smith in fourteen Broadway productions. The New York Post's Richard Watts, Jr., referred to her as "one of the most beautiful and talented actresses on the American stage." In 1950, Hepburn would star opposite Sidney Poitier, Richard Wydmark and Linda Darnell in director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's No Way Out. As Cora Brooks, wife of Poitier's Luther Brooks, her character's strength and stoic grace was garnered universal accolades. The script, written by Mankiewicz, with roles that were a departure from the stereotypical parts written for black actors of the time, allowed for such honest portrayals and set the stage for a new generation of actors to represent African Americans as introspective, intelligent and complex. Hepburn had already broken the color barrier in the Broadway production of Beggar's Holiday, playing the love interest opposite Alfred Drake (who was white), and Forward the Heart, also on Broadway. She was lauded as a "show stopper of the first magnitude. In Cockles and Champagne, a musical revue created for the London stage she collaborated with Duke Ellington, Billy "Swee' Pea" Strayhorn and composer Luther Henderson. After recovering from a tragic plane crash in February of 1952, Mildred worked as woman's editor for Our World magazine, a black life-style publication. She married David A. Hepburn, a journalist and vice president with WNEW-TV, who predeceased her in 1985. In the early 1960's, at East View Junior High School in White Plains, Hepburn would become one of New York's most outstanding English teachers. Interviewed for a Columbia University publication, Hepburn was asked what she loved most about teaching, and she responded, "The children! They are always different, like audiences; they change, they're not set in their ways, they're flexible. Her success as a teacher has often been attributed to her stage experience and an ability to make learning fun and exciting. Mildred S. Hepburn is survived by her daughter, Vanessa Nina Hepburn; a son, David Blake Hepburn; a stepdaughter, Valerie J. Hepburn, MD; six grandchildren, Brandon, Chelsea, Cole, Kaleo, Sage and Koa. Her funeral will take place, Monday, July 27, at Grace Episcopal Church, 33 Church Street, White Plains, New York, with the wake at 9:30 a.m. and homegoing service at 11:00 a.m. Interment will follow at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla. At her request, a scholarship in her name will be developed to support youth in the arts.

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Published in The Journal News on Jul. 25, 2015.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Cynthia Moore-Johnson s Heburn student
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25 entries
August 11, 2015
Here I am, a 69 year old lady, mother and grandmother with a Master's degree in journalism who never could forget her all time favorite teacher, Mrs. Hepburn. She was my homeroom teacher and my most incredible English teacher for two years. I remember when she visited my home wanting to see the fireplace I had described in an essay, her talking about her plane accident making her feel that she survived for a purpose, and her dedication to teaching us proper grammar, the eight parts of speech. May she live on forever in your memories. She may be gone but she will never be forgotten by me. Linda Seifer Sage, her very lucky former student
Linda (Seifer) Sage
August 4, 2015
I want to extend my condolences to Mrs. Hepburn's family. Hearing of her death saddened me. She made a permanent mark on me. I regret now that I did not keep up with her after East View Junior High. A couple of months ago I saw "No Way Out." The regal way she portrayed her character reminded me of the regal way she ran her classroom. I will miss her, and so will many of her students. I hope that her students' vivid memories of her will help bring some comfort to you.
Caroline Herzfeld
July 29, 2015
Mrs. Hepburn was a truly memorable and inspiring teacher and person. My life was enriched by having her as my teacher.
Donna McCabe
July 28, 2015
Truly a great person !
Donald Marchione
July 28, 2015
Ms. Hepburn was a great English teacher - Eastview 8th Grade. RIP and condolences to her family.
cathleen dwyer
July 27, 2015
My condolences....Mrs. Hepburn always found a positive way to deliver her lessons.
Philip Prince
July 27, 2015
My condolences to the Hepburn family.
Donna Bannister
July 27, 2015
Words can not express what a great loss this is. Ms Hepburn was one of the few teachers at Eastview that cared about her students. I thank you for all that I learned from you and you were definitely what they they call a "Gentle Giant". You will truly be missed.....
Dora Turner
July 26, 2015
We think and speak of you often amongst ourselves. Your light will forever shine through the lives of your students and loved ones. Until we meet again Mrs. Hepburn...
Darlene Burkett
July 26, 2015
My word's can never fully express, how phenomenal!! You were as a teacher.. I humbly, thank you, for teaching me. To look, beyond the WORDS.... I never forgot those words!! Thank you Mrs. Hepburn.. I know, you are in the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN My deepest & sincerest condolence To the whole family GREATEST TEACHER EVER.... R.I.P. MRS. HEPBURN
Dawn Seawright
July 26, 2015
My condolences to the family. She was one of my BEST english teachers!!!!!
Joan Robinson
July 26, 2015
RIP Mrs Hepburn you were an excellent teacher. Praying for your family
Deidre Thompson
July 26, 2015
Mrs. Hepburn was a no nonsense women who ran a tight ship in her classroom. Two years ago, I saw her at the podiatrists office, and at 90 years old, she remembered me. At least that's what she told me and I believed her. Mrs. Hepburn, I know God has a classroom waiting for you. To the family, my condolences are extended to you.
Sandra Daughtrey Allen
July 26, 2015
Mrs. Hepburn was the epitome of grace. She was able to convince middle schoolers how important it was to have the arts, how to appreciate literature and above to act like you had some sense. Great, great woman. My husband (William Booker) and I speak of her influence often on our adult lives. She had long-lasting impact. May your memories provide you comfort at this time.
Karen Booker
July 26, 2015
Ms. Hepburn was a beloved teacher at Eastview middle school..she was firm but also kind and cared about her students. May she Rest in Peace.
Sonia Bradshaw Gordon
July 26, 2015
I am so grateful that I had the good fortune to have Mrs. Hepburn for a teacher. Her fervor for the beauty of language was thrilling, and we students absorbed it into our young minds -- many of us for life. Bravo, Mrs. Hepburn. As my classmate Sue Herzog says here, we are on our feet!
Debbie Dolan Nevins
July 26, 2015
RIP Mrs. Hepburn
Teri Henninger
July 26, 2015
Mrs. Hepburn was one of those rare teachers who left an indelible mark on your psyche. I was most fortunate to have had her twice in E.V.J. Thanks and condolences to her family. E.V.J. Class of '68
Jo Ann Langham
July 26, 2015
Mrs. Hepburn would be so pleased to know how many of her students from Eastview Hunior High hold her in the highest esteem. She truly made a difference in so many of our lives. She will never be forgotten We are all giving her a standing ovation!
Susan Herzog cade
July 26, 2015
I'm 62 and I still remember Mrs. Hepburn at Eastview Junior High School. She was a talented, intelligent and caring teacher. Thank you for giving us what you did. It made a difference.
Joan Altman
July 26, 2015
Michael DeRosa
July 25, 2015
I had not heard of Mrs. Hepburn until her death, but she was a very fascinating woman that lead a full and fulfilling life. My condolences to her family. Mrs. Hepburn was a beautiful woman.
Samala Henry
July 25, 2015
I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the Hepburn family. Mrs. Hepburn was an amazing teacher and fantastic role model. I will always treasure the many fond memories I have of her.
Connie Eller
July 25, 2015
Thinking of all the family at this sad time. God bless you all and embrace the love that she left behind. Wanda - England UK
July 25, 2015
My condolences to the family. This is truly a difficult time. It's no wonder we await the time when "no resident will say I am sick" Isa 33:24; JF
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