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Missing my mother

Lately I’ve been very distracted due to my mother’s final illness and death. I spent a few days with her as she faded away from me, and I’ll be returning to Connecticut soon for a memorial service. I miss my “Mommy”. Here’s how she wanted to be remembered to the world (she drafted her own obituary):

Catherine V.A. Smith, known to family and friends as “Bobby”, died on October 25, 2011, in Hamden, Connecticut.

Born in Kane, Pennsylvania, on June 22, 1925, the daughter of Homer L. and Helen Wingard Van Aken, she grew up with her family in Amsterdam, New York. She graduated from Middlebury College in 1947 and received a Ph.D., in zoology, from Yale University in 1952. In 1951, she married David M. Smith, Morris Jesup Professor of Silviculture at Yale, and resided in Hamden ever since.

Active in many community and civic affairs, she considered herself a professional volunteer board member. She served as an elected member of the Hamden Representative Town Meeting and later the Hamden Board of Education. She was appointed to the Connecticut State Board of Education, which she chaired. Among the many other boards on which she served were the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, which in 1978 gave her its Distinguished Service Award, the National Association of State Boards of Education, board of trustees of the Connecticut Educational Television Corporation (now Connecticut Public Broadcasting), the Health Systems Agency of South Central Connecticut, and Council for Emergency Medical Services of South Central Connecticut. She was an honorary life member of the Connecticut Parent-Teachers Association and of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. Most recently, she served for over 25 years in various capacities, including President, on the board of the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut.

She was an avid gardener, growing flowers, vegetables, and berries, saying “happiness is a full freezer”. She also enjoyed traveling, studying landscape, vegetation, birds, and relics of the past from rock formations to old houses, in the places they visited.

She is predeceased by her husband, and survived by two daughters, Ellen D. Smith (husband Richard Norby) of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Nancy V.A. Smith (husband John Stewart) of Carbondale Colorado, one grandson, Karl M.S. Norby of Chicago, a sister, Janet V. Gauthey (husband Richard) of Springfield, Virginia, and several nieces and nephews and cousins. She was predeceased by a sister, Elizabeth V. Kent of Amsterdam, N.Y., and a brother, Dr. John L. Van Aken, of Kent, Ohio.

A memorial service will be held in Hamden.


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