Town archivist Edna Smith dies

Volunteer work was her top priority

By Kimm Groshong, Staff Writer
Pasadena Star News

ALTADENA — Local archivist, Edna Smith, who selflessly volunteered her time and attended seemingly every meeting in town, died Friday evening at Huntington Hospital after surgery. She was 86.

The list of groups touched by Smith’s efforts is extensive. The Altadena Chamber of Commerce recognized Smith’s dedication to the community in 1992 by honoring her with its Citizen of the Year award. “She wanted to make the world a better place and I think that was her focus,’ said Janda Ferris, Smith’s only daughter. “She just loved people… it was in her blood.’

Smith helped start the local Meals on Wheels program in 1972 and remained actively involved with that group, sitting on its board and delivering meals until just a few months ago, said Sara Carnahan, the president of the Altadena Historical Society. “She was all over the place… she knew so many people,’ Carnahan said of Smith, who served as the director of archives for the historical society, completely updating and organizing the town’s historical documents.

Smith also served as a driving force behind the recently published history of the town, “Altadena: Between Wilderness and City.’ Michele Zack, the book’s author, said “We would not have had a history book without Edna. It was her vision and her dream… and she was a bulldog of a fund-raiser.’ The book is dedicated to Smith.

A native of Philadelphia, Smith arrived in Pasadena in 1940. Shortly thereafter, she met and married her first husband, Robert McCarty. They were married on May 27, 1940. When he died in 1953, Smith went back to school, and earned a degree in social work from Los Angeles State College three years later. She immediately applied her degree, working as a social worker for various nonprofit organizations such as Foothill Family Service and the United Way.

In 1957, she married Fred Smith. When Edna Smith retired, she went to work part time for Mountain View Mausoleum as a preneed counselor. After about 20 years there, she quit to devote herself completely to her volunteer activities.

Shortly thereafter, she told a Pasadena Star-News reporter, “I kind of hated to leave, but my paid job was getting in the way of my volunteer jobs, and my volunteering took precedence.’

Along with her work for the historical society, Smith also volunteered with the California State Firefighters Association Auxiliary, the Friends of the Altadena Library and the Scenic Mount Lowe Railway Historical Committee.

She loved collecting miniature books, belonged to the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles and was a P.E.O. sister.

Smith is survived by her daughter and two grandsons, Liam, 29, of Long Beach, and Patrick, 25, of Sierra Madre. Visitation is open to the community on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mountain View Mortuary, 2400 N. Fair Oaks Ave. A memorial service will also be held Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Altadena Community Center, 730 E. Altadena Drive

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