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Frances Smith, retired journalist, dies at 87
New York, January 7, 2010 -- Frances Smith, a former United Methodist News Service reporter known for her integrity, encyclopedic knowledge of religious and international issues and ability to shoot from the hip, died Dec. 30 in Claremont, Calif., at the age of 87.
Clare Chapman, now National Council of Churches Deputy General Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, remembers Smith from her early days in the United Methodist ecumenical office (GCCUIC).
"She would come to our board meetings and other events and wrote engaging and stimulating accounts," Chapman recalls. "But, she was also very nurturing of the next generation of those of us in the 'religion business' and watching this strong, professional woman doing her absolute best all the time was quite an example to all of us. She will certainly be missed."
Tom McAnally, a news service colleague who eventually became her boss,
compared Smith to Helen Thomas, the venerable UPI White House reporter. “She
was a scholar and an intellectual who approached her work with all
seriousness,” he said. “She didn't hesitate to ask the hard questions when
working on a story.”
Thompson and McAnally agreed. “Frances was not noted for her small talk, but she was a very good after-hours party companion,” Thompson added.
For Burton, Smith’s love of travel inspired her “to seize the opportunities in the church to see the world.”
She still remembers a photograph of Smith sitting on a camel in Egypt. “I loved to hear her tell stories about her travel because she’d try anything,” she explained. “I think she just loved being on the world stage.”
The travel bug followed her into retirement, with annual Christmas letters describing her trips. She also worked occasionally as a freelance writer and was actively involved at Pilgrim Place, a Southern California retirement community for those who worked for religious and charitable organizations, where she had resided since 1994.
The Rev. Barbara Troxell, a friend and fellow resident there, said Smith helped inspire the community on environmental issues, served as editor of the monthly newsletter and organized the booths for an annual festival until her health began to decline about a year and a half ago.
Smith is survived by one brother, William Smith, four nieces and a nephew. A memorial service is planned Jan. 23 at Pilgrim Place.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , email@example.com
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