She was introduced to Plum Island by her husband, who had grown up in Medford. And it wasn’t necessarily love at first sight. Smith told Newburyport Magazine in 2009 that she arrived on Plum Island kicking and screaming, determined not to give up her big-city roots for the crash of waves and salty shores. But she quickly became enamored with the barrier island, and in 1970, the Smiths bought what was then a small yellow cottage, where they would spend one month a summer with their four children, Eric, Luke, Brooke and Scott.
They would eventually expand the cottage, with Smith creating her office, an “inner sanctum,” on the third floor overlooking the ocean.
When it came time for Smith to retire in 2002, she announced she wanted to sell their New York home and settle on the island permanently, her husband of 47 years said yesterday.
“I could have kissed her right there,” he said. “I wanted to come here and hoped she would want to, too.”
Members of the former Newbury Beach Advisory Committee, a volunteer board charged with developing beach management plans in the late 2000s, said Smith was deeply concerned about the environment on Plum Island. And she would often call on her contacts in the performing arts industry to contribute to initiatives for its betterment, including paying for sea grass, fencing and the Welcome to Plum Island sign at the center.
Today, that sign includes a message to pray for the Smiths.
“It’s a very sad loss to the culture and the kind of way Plum Island is,” said Stanley Liffman, who served with Smith on the advisory committee. “We all benefited from her energy and her vitality and her willingness to work together with people.”
Fellow beach advisory committee member Martin Saradjian said Smith approached everything with an upbeat manner.