by PAT MURDOCK
Dr. Gwen K. Smith, an longtime San Marcos educator, philanthropist and local civic leader, passed away April 10 at her home in the San Marcos Historical District.
Dr. Smith was born in San Marcos on Sept. 8, 1915 to Florence Crunk Smith and Oscar C. Smith, Sr. She was preceded in death by her parents and her three older brothers, Max, Edwin and Calvin Smith.
Survivors include beloved friend and companion, Dr. Carmen Imel; a nephew, Dr. Lamar Smith, and his wife Deborrah of Carta Valley, Texas; a niece, Duane Smith Dupree, and her husband Bobby of San Marcos; grand nieces, Monica Sanders, Marissa Smith, Heather Young and Laurie Brown; grand nephews, Max Smith and Chris Dupree; great nieces, Sarah Brown and Hannah Dupree; and great nephews, William Brown and Reagan Dupree. In addition, she is survived by former students around the world and many dear friends in San Marcos.
Dr. Smith received two degrees from what is now Texas State University and spent her early years as a physical education teacher in the San Marcos public schools. Upon the completion of her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, she moved to Illinois in 1946 where she spent the next 33 years as a professor of dance and sports at Illinois State University in Normal.
Dr. Smith’s three decades of community service in San Marcos and Hays County began in 1980 when she retired from Illinois State and returned to the place where she was born. Her organization affiliations and list of awards and honors seem almost unending.
She was co-chair of both the San Marcos Bicentennial and Sesquicentennial Commissions. The latter celebration led to the development of the San Marcos River Foundation.
She was recognized by the City of San Marcos as Community Volunteer of the Year in 2009. She was a founding member and chair of the city’s first Historical Preservation Commission. Over her many years of service, she served on many city boards and commissions, including the Main Street Advisory Board, Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals and the San Marcos Cemetery Commission.
She was a founding board member of both the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos and Friends of the San Marcos Cemetery, as well as one of the founding members of the San Marcos Performing Arts Association, Summer in the Park and Sights and Sounds of Christmas. She was a past president of the Heritage Association of San Marcos and the Heritage Neighborhood Association. She was actively involved with the Greater San Marcos Area Seniors Association and the Price Seniors Center. She served on the Aquarena Advisory Committee, the San Marcos CISD Education Foundation Board, the Central Texas Higher Education Authority Board, the Texas State University Development Foundation Board and the Texas State Friends of Fine Arts Board.
During her active retirement years, she was a generous contributor to numerous educational and charitable organizations, adding her financial support where it was needed most to support the causes in which she believed. She created a scholarship fund at Texas State to benefit dance students. She spearheaded many Heritage Association fundraisers, particularly those focusing on the River Walk, park beautification, long-range planning and the preservation and beautification of Veramendi Plaza.
Dr. Smith’s accomplishments up to the late 1990’s are referenced in Texas State’s “Southwest Texas Women: The First 100 Years Exhibit.”
Family will receive friends at Pennington Funeral Home, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 13.
Celebration of Life Services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, in the Pennington Memorial Chapel, with Dr. Jimmy Cobb officiating. Interment to follow at the San Marcos Cemetery.
Friends are encouraged to make memorial gifts in Dr. Smith’s honor to the Price Senior Center, 222 W. San Antonio St., San Marcos, TX 78666, or the organization or charity of their choice.
A special thank-you on behalf of her friends and family is extended to her primary care physician, Dr. Grayson Smith, and her hematologist, Dr. James Uyeki.
Arrangements under the care and guidance of Pennington Funeral Home, 323 N. Comanche, San Marcos, TX 78666, 512-353-4311. Obituary and guestbook on line at www.penningtonfuneralhome.com