April 23, 2017

Mimi Smith: 1925 – 2010

 

On July 26, 2010, Mimi Smith, beloved by all who knew her, passed away peacefully at home in Topanga.

PHOTO BY WENDY SKOLFIELD

Mimi Smith: 1925 – 2010



Life was an adventure for Mimi. She lived it passionately, creatively, mercifully and with humor. She loved the Santa Monica Mountains and was an original member of TASC, receiving the LA County Board of Supervisors Citizens Award for her role in helping to establish the Topanga State Park. Mimi was a consummate story teller, and was a living legend in Topanga for her zest for life and open door to all who needed a good cup of coffee and a story.

She and Henry, her devoted husband of more than 50 years, were proud to serve as Grand Marshalls in the 1998 Topanga Days parade. They were activists in the American Indian Movement and many other environmental and social justice causes. Mimi once tied herself to an iconic oak tree in Topanga to protest its removal.

She was born in Pittsburgh on April 15, 1925 and is the daughter of Russell Mitchell and Dorothy Noble. She married Edward L. Winterer in 1945. Together they had three children, Catherine Grainger, Stephen “Hap” Winterer and Wendy Skolfield. She remarried in 1960 to Henry Smith Jr. They have lived in their eclectic hilltop sanctuary in Topanga since the early 60’s. She is survived by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mom lived a beautiful life and was blessed with a beautiful death. It was an honor to be her daughter, her friend, and to help care for her this past year.

I could not have done it without Henry of course, but strength and love from the community and especially folks like the Sipples, Gabrielle and Roy and Ivan gave Mom the energy and light to find her way safely to her next big adventure.

She was loved by her community and will be missed by all. A celebration of her life will be held in Topanga in September, date and time will be announced in the Messenger. Her family thanks everyone for their love and support.

“Oh, Honey, You Can Do This!”

She was such a whiz bang* storyteller, I can’t think of a better way to honor Mimi than with OUR stories of HER! (*Wendy’s word to describe her mom)

Mimi Smith engaged in The Great Dance of Life with radiant passion, humor, insight and joie de vivre. Her awareness was full spectrum, from the practical to the political to the mystical.

Hap asked me at her 80th celebration why we journeyed all the way from New York for a birthday party, and at the time, I had no words. It was Mimi, for heaven’s sake!

What I can tell him now is that your mom had the extraordinary gift of telling us all that we could do what seemed impossible, in such a way, that we BELIEVED her. She “handed us” the energy and spirit to make whatever dream we were chasing at the time – come true. Can’t you just hear her now, her magic and charisma shining, “Oh honey, you can DO this! This (lover, house, audition, promotion…whatever) is YOURS!

From wherever you are now, Mim, keep whispering this in our ears. We will always need to hear it! What a pleasure and a grace your journey was to this world. Shine on, sweet soul!

— Noela N. Evans, Northport, New York


Outlaw Hippies

It is hard for me to even say her name alone. I have  hardly ever spoken it without adding her husband’s name--Mimi and Henry Smith. Two very distinctive characters from the Santa Monica Mountains, spending more than half a century living amid the chaparral, the oak and the bay.

I’d call them two fellow wackos whose very essence is the manifestation of a fading Outlaw Hippie Culture that gravitated to the Santa Monicas back in the 50s, 60s and 70s to escape the grip of Big Brother, the Vietnam War and the coming darkness of a fast-moving, multi-national corporate world that has brought us a New World Order. These “dropouts” would bring with them artistic talents in an incredible variety of fields and would help set off a revolution in music, art, performance, design, fashion,  film and television production...you name it!

All that artistic talent floating through Topanga, decade after decade, and Mimi Smith watching most of it happen from her abode up Old Canyon. A good deal of that talent would often gravitate up the steep hill to Mimi and Henry's house for a visit and a lengthy schmooze. It’s a special house built so close to the land that it is hard to see where nature ends and the home begins. A fitting abode for a Native American and his wife.

For several years now, whenever I passed Mimi’s home on a trip through the Canyon I would look up toward that hill and wonder how Mimi was handling those daily treks up and down that steep hillside. When most people her age were making a beeline for the safety of some flat, level, single-floor dwelling to live out their latter years, Mimi was still clinging to the side of the verdant beautiful hill she called home. A world she and Henry filled with both horse and dog.

Now that she is gone, I will forever miss and long remember that gravel-filled, husky feminine voice of hers that so often raged against the injustices so prevalent in American society. Mimi could always be relied on for putting up a good fight in behalf of the underdog.

Now that Mimi Smith is gone, she will also be sorely missed by a great many of us. You can't say that about everybody.

— J.R. Ball, Los Angeles, California


Dearest Friends of Mimi Smith,

Thank you to all who were able to join us at Mimi’s Life Celebration.

The love, light and laughter you brought to our family, was truly healing medicine. And while we will always miss her, now we can all start to, as Mom would say “Drive on!”

To all who could not be there, rest assured your spirits were indeed with us in the candlelight glow, your voices were raised with ours as we joined the bagpipe for Amazing Grace, and your laugh was heard in the kitchen among ours as the Wild Turkey Toast shots were being poured.

I want to lift an extra deep cup of gratitude to those folks who were my Event Angels.

Without their generous and capable hands, this magic day would not have been the same.

Thank you John and Mary Sipple, for creating the masterpiece video, and all your cheerful support of our family. To Debbie Ryder and Greg Hilfman, through your music, my song was lifted to a higher ground. To Lynnie Stewart, thank you for your gift of the Wild Turkey Toast! Mom would have been thrilled, and it truly warmed all our hearts. Penny Chavez, you are officially crowned as the Topanga Cookie Organizer for all time. Skye Weber, the Rose Queen, who made bouquets appear like magic.Thank you Nona for your organizing of a myriad of behind the scenes details.

Every golden candle was placed and lit by Noela Evans, herself a point of light.

To Bruce Kaufman, thank you for bringing us the Kaddish Prayer, and a great Mimi story. And to Bill and Gail, who graciously opened their magic kingdom to our family, a huge thank you. You made it all so easy.

On behalf of Mimi’s family, thank you one and all!

— Wendy Skolfield