Camden — Joan Montgomery Perry Smith died Feb. 20, 2014, at Pen Bay Medical Center. She was predeceased by her husband, Converse Owen Smith, son Adam Perry Smith, grandson Owen Standish Smith and dearest friend Charlotte Stancioff.
Joan was born July 18, 1925 to Ruth Montgomery Perry and Standish Perry, in the family home on High Street. She was proud to note that both sides of her family were in Maine before the revolution. Joan’s grandmother was a founding member of the Monday Club in 1885. Joan often told the story of a paternal ancestor John Perry, a revolutionary who, defending his land, shot a British soldier and escaped to Boston in a canoe. There is a monument to him in Rockland, which Joan dedicated. Her grandfather and great-uncle, Charles and Job Montgomery, owned the Dr. D.P Ordway plaster company, which made mustard plasters and other patent medicines. That mail order business did so well it was the impetus for the building of the Camden Post Office.
She was educated in Camden schools, attended Oak Grove Preparatory School where she studied, among other things, classical Greek and Latin and continued to deepen the love of poetry that began when she was a child. Throughout her life she committed hundreds of poems to memory and would recite the perfect verse at the appropriate time.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in philosophy from Connecticut College and later she attended Katherine Gibbs School in New York City.
She met her husband, Converse Owen Smith, in 1947 at Richmont in Camden.
He started the Maine Coast Fisherman newspaper, (later National Fisherman) which Joan described as “a wonderful little paper that covered the whole coast of Maine and all the shipyards and all the fishing that was going on. And I worked for him; it was fun. Wrote letters to all the lighthouse keepers, and he traveled the state, the whole coast all the time because there were only three of us putting it out.” She often spoke fondly about her correspondences with the lighthouse keepers.
She and the family lived in Chevy Chase, Md., for eight years when Owen was the assistant to the Secretary of the Army during the Johnson administration, returning to Camden every summer and then permanently when Owen died in 1968.
As a suddenly single mother, she devoted her entire life to the care of her children and to welcoming and harboring many other young people, many of whom consider the Smiths their second family.
Joan was a life-long voracious reader and she would arise at 5 a.m. to have solitary reading time before her busy days began. For many years she managed the children’s book section of the Owl and Turtle Bookstore. One of her specialties was locating rare and out of print books, and her home was filled with books of every description, her beloved New Yorker magazine and the Sunday New York Times. As a child and young adult she was a horsewoman and spent many hours riding in Camden and environs; a lover of all animals and nature she enjoyed the companionship of many cats and dogs over the years. Joan especially loved being at the family camp on Megunticook Lake where she stayed summers from infancy on and where her children and many friends gathered daily all summer long. One of her favorite times of year was spring, and she was fond of the Emily Dickinson quote, “Spring is a happiness so beautiful, so unique, so unexpected, I don’t know what to do with my heart.” This and many other quotes, from Shakespeare to traditional folk songs, found expression in her unique embroidered cloth pictures, which started out as books for her grandchildren and became collectible framed pictures, shown in libraries and art galleries. Known for her joyous and generous entertaining, Joan hosted parties for all holidays, birthdays and milestones. Many family friends — particularly the Stancioffs — raised their families and at times lived with the Smiths, sharing festivities and elegant meals on every holiday in every season. Her parties featured music, poems, plays put on by the children or grandchildren, and her home was filled with photographs documenting these times. She was a patron of all the arts and supported them generously, always nurturing the artistic and musical endeavors of her family and friends. She corresponded with writers she admired, among them E.B White.
Joan is survived by her children, Nicholas O. Smith and his wife, Cynthia, Samuel W. Smith and his wife, Judy, Peter B. Smith, Benjamin W. Smith and his partner, Susan Lidstone, his friend and former wife, Nan, Susan S.Smith and her husband, David, Mia Mantello and her husband, Bob Sewall. Her grandchildren are Austin Smith and his wife, Jess, Anna and Jane Smith, Avery and Emily Smith, Samantha Sewall and Alexandra and Fiona Smith. The family wishes to express gratitude to Joan’s dedicated caregivers of the last four years.
Calling hours will be held Thursday, Feb. 27, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Long Funeral Home, 9 Mountain St., Camden. A celebration of her life will be held Friday, Feb. 28, at 10:30 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church with The Rev. John Rafter officiating.
Memorial donations may be made to PAWS, P.O Box 707, Rockport, ME 04856; Coastal Mountains Land Trust, 101 Mt. Battie St., Camden, ME 04843; or to Bay Chamber Scholarship Fund, P.O Box 599, Rockport, ME, 04856. Condolences and memories may be shared with the Smith family by visiting their book of memories at longfuneralhomecamden.com.