Before his tenure as a professor, Smith had a connection with Mary Baldwin because of his wife, the late Lilly Simril Smith, who was a student when they met on a blind date in Staunton. The couple married in 1955, and went on to raise four children together.
The Smiths lived near campus, and often welcomed students for social gatherings.
“We surprised them by Christmas carolling at their house; of course, they invited all of us in and Lilly offered us cooking sherry as a reward,” said Murray, whose Class of 1973 was sponsored by the Smiths. “Ben was delighted by all this, but mostly by her. For us young women, their marriage was perfection.”
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“His sermons were like his lectures, carefully constructed, always moving to an epiphany: a journey with a destination,” said Lott.
Laura Hall ’72, former English major at Mary Baldwin, took Chaucer and Shakespeare courses with Smith, who she remembers as “jovial, lively, and exacting.” Her parents moved to Staunton in 1976, four years after she graduated, and her mother, Cornelia Hall — also an English major — audited classes with some of her daughter’s former Mary Baldwin professors.
“My mother and Ben Smith clicked, especially with his Chaucer class,” said Laura Hall. “Because of her lifelong affinity for the color red (she wore some form of it daily and had a red jeep, red sheets, red china, etc.), Dr. Smith realized that she clearly identified with the Dame Alice of Bath (with her red hose).
It was in 1985 that my mother died of cancer and Dr. Smith, who by then had left Staunton and become an Episcopalian minister, was asked by my family to conduct her funeral at Covenant Presbyterian Church. He fittingly wore his red, ministerial robes and conducted the most perfect service for our mother. He spoke of her ‘zest and appreciation for life in all its myriad detail and all of its physicality’ (like the dame) and of her ‘ever renewing, ever renewed hope’ and said that he had come to love my mother and she him. And so it was full circle.”
After serving as a rector, Smith worked for the Episcopal diocese at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation until retiring in 2015.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a memorial service is not scheduled at this time, but condolences may be sent to Lilly Richardson, 53 Aigburth Ave., Towson, MD., 21286. Those interested in making a memorial gift can direct their donation to Shrine Mont, Box 20, Orkney Springs, VA. More detail may be found in Smith’s obituary.