Shirley Gates Smith, 89, Co-Founder of Spurwink School
Shirley Gates Smith, 89, passed away on March 10, 2012, at Falmouth by the Sea after a long decline in health.
She was born April 4, 1922, in Augusta, Maine to Donald and Eugenia Ayers Gates, their first of four daughters. She was educated in local schools and graduated from Cony High School, class of 1940. Following business school, she secured a job as a secretary at the State House, where she stayed until 1949. In 1946, she was assigned to work with a new State representative, Edmund Muskie.
On March 20, 1948, she married Richard M. Smith, whom she had met in grade school at age 10. They moved to Portland and rented an apartment on Munjoy Hill overlooking the Eastern Promenade. Here they had their first child, Nicholas, in 1953. Together they moved to St. Louis Missouri, so that her husband could attend graduate school at Washington University. Their second child, Vana, was born during this stay. Their hope and goal was always to return to their beloved home state. The move was delayed when her husband was offered a job as executive director of the Baird Children’s Home in Burlington, Vermont. They detoured there until 1960 and then finally were able to relocate back to Maine.
They purchased a farm on Riverside St. for the site of their new residential treatment center which they founded that same year, Spurwink School, later to become Spurwink Services, still in existence. Her husband was the director and teacher, while she handled the business end of the operation. The early years were a struggle, but Shirley’s accounting and money management skills helped keep it afloat. Over the next 10 years, they lived at the school, working to develop and expand the center while raising their two children at the school.
In 1970, the Smiths divorced but continued to work together at Spurwink until Shirley’s retirement in 1978, when she moved to Scarborough. She remained there in her own home until 2008, when she moved into assisted living at Scarborough Terrace. A year ago, her declining health required her to transfer to the nursing facility of Falmouth by the Sea.
Shirley was a master of multitasking. She was an extremely accomplished seamstress, producing countless fine garments over the years, including costumes and party dresses for her two granddaughters. She loved to keep house, garden, cook, and bake. Her garden at Spurwink produced an abundance of fresh vegetables yearly, including the annual endless supply of zucchini. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe became a local classic. Long before it was fashionable, she was interested in vitamins and healthy eating. For many years, she made her own yogurt and cultivated a taste for wheat germ and brewers yeast. Upon her retirement, she became an avid reader, an activity she pursued until her vision declined a few years ago.
Shirley is survived by her son, Nicholas Smith of Brooklyn, New York; her daughter, Vana Carmona and husband Ralph, of Portland, Maine; her two granddaughters, Lonicera Lyttle of Turin, Italy; and Poppy Lyttle of New York. She is also survived by two sisters, Jeanalys Ballard and Beverly Naoum, both of Augusta. A third sister, Dawn Morgan, predeceased her in 2010.
The family wishes to thank the staffs of Scarborough Terrace, Falmouth by the Sea, and Beacon Hospice for their thoughtful caring of Shirley over the last few years. They also wish to thank Shirley’s dear friend, Colleen Snyder, for all her assistance and generosity, which she has so freely given to make Shirley’s later life more pleasant.
According to Shirley’s request, no services will be held. Persons wishing to acknowledge her long and full life can make a donation in her name to a cause of their own choosing.
Arrangements are under the care of Advantage Funeral & Cremation Services, 981 Forest Ave., Portland, ME. Please visit www.advantageportland.com to sign Shirley’s guestbook.