Obituary: Gwyndolyn Smith

Grandmother, special needs students’ advocate, singer, artist

Gwendolyn Joy Smith, 87, died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, on September 25, 2017 at Pomona Valley Hospital.

She was born September 11, 1930 in Nashville, Tennessee’s Bordeaux community, near the Cumberland River.

Her mother remarried Charles Bell Shockley, and young Gwen took her stepfather’s surname. She had two half-brothers, David and Jerry, and two half-sisters, Ann and Fay.

When her stepfather developed lung problems, the family moved to Pomona, where an uncle, Garrett, worked making ice cream for the Betsy Ross Company.

She spent her senior year at Pomona High School, singing in the choir under the direction of Frank Cummings. She later studied voice with Lucille Stevens and Helen Selby. She was a soprano soloist, first at Westmont United Methodist Church in Pomona, and later at Claremont Methodist Church. In the 1980s she joined the choir at Pomona’s Pilgrim Congregational Church, again under Mr. Cummings.

She was a long-distance telephone operator in Pomona, and later worked at the classified advertising desk at the Progress Bulletin newspaper.

In 1952, she married Robert Earle Smith. Shortly thereafter Mr. Smith won a Rotary Fellowship for a year of study in Peru. While there, Ms. Smith taught fifth grade English at Colegio America, a private Methodist school. The couple lived with a Peruvian family, the Luques, and learned quite a bit of Spanish.

When the Smiths returned to California, they relocated to Claremont. In 1965 they moved again, to Alta Loma, to be closer to Mr. Smith’s job as an art history professor at Chaffey College, in what is now Rancho Cucamonga.

The Smiths had two sons, Fredrick Morris and Benjamin Andrew, who attended schools in Alta Loma and Claremont. Ms. Smith continued her education at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in child development.

After graduation, she worked with special needs students at Chaffey College and became a liaison with local high schools, mentoring students who sought to transfer to Chaffey. Ms. Smith also helped create the preschool at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland.

Ms. Smith was also an artist. She studied watercolor with Cindy Rinne and exhibited her work at shows in San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Pomona and Claremont. She was known for bright colors, both in her art and her wardrobe.

She was a longtime member of Pilgrim Congregational Church, was an officer in the Women’s Auxiliary and Side-By-Side club, and could be seen wearing her tiara as the “Donut Queen” during church rummage sales.

Ms. Smith is survived by her husband, Bob; her sons, Fred and Ben; her sister, Ann; and seven grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 28 at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 600 N. Garey Ave., Pomona. The family asks attendees to wear bright colors and to stay for lunch. 

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