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Virginia M. Smyth

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Virginia M. Smyth once said "Giving one's self is a gift of the spirit, I recommend it for all ages". This was Ms. Smyth's creed. Ms. Smyth was born in Ardmore, Okla., on March 9, 1919, and died on Oct. 28, 2009.

Ms. Smyth attended William Woods College in Fulton and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in social work, whereas she completed her masters in social work at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Ms. Smyth's working career began with the Red Cross, having worked for this organization in New York City and Atlanta. It was while here in Atlanta she met the love of her life, James Marvin Smyth, who also worked for the Red Cross. In the late 1950s Ms. Smyth began a position with the State of Georgia Department of Public Health to explore the needs of the older adult population. She later became the Chairwoman of Georgia's first Interdepartmental Committee on Aging. Subsequent to this Ms. Smyth began a career with the federal government within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and it's successor the Department of Health and Human Services. In 1960 Ms. Smyth was named Regional Representative for Aging, subsequently working with the southeastern states in planning the first White House conference on aging. In 1967 she was named Regional Commissioner of Social and Rehabilitation Services and in 1977 she was named Regional Administrator for the Healthcare Financing Administration. Ms. Smith resigned her career with the Department of Health and Human Services in 1981.

Although Ms. Smyth retired from the federal government in 1981, she never stopped pursuing her mission to advance the cause of aging. She co-founded the Downtown Atlanta Senior Services (DASS) in 1982. This organization later became the Center for Positive Aging, this being a charter member of the Shepherd Center of America. As the Volunteer Assistant Director for this organization, Ms. Smyth provided leadership and the expertise she gained from a lifelong commitment to the field of aging. In 1994 Ms. Smyth's passion for helping others was recognized by the Downtown Atlanta Senior Services Board of Directors when she became the Special Assistant to the Director. In this role she continued to champion services for seniors by role modeling and freely sharing the expertise she had gained through a lifetime of education and experience. In 1998, by which time the DASS had become The Center for Positive Aging, Ms. Smyth was presented with the Shepherd Center of America Samuel Curtis Reaves Award for Outstanding Leadership.

Ms. Smyth was by nature a humble woman who only sought to help others without seeking to stand in the limelight. In fact, Ms. Smyth claimed she could never have done what she did without the help of others and the wholehearted love and support she received from her husband. It is this attribute, yes this quiet demeanor and desire to help others that led to her being recognized again on April 11, 2002. On this date Ms. Smyth received recognition from WXIA TV Channel 11 through their Community Service Awards. The following is inscribed on the trophy awarded to Ms. Smyth:

The Center for Positive Aging

Presented April 11, 2002 at the Twentieth Anniversary Celebration

Of the Center for Positive Aging


Virginia M. Smyth

Whose vision, leadership, and personal involvement nurtured the Center's Prosperity

Those who have passed before her have praised her and those of us who remain praise her as being a wonderful and loving daughter, sister, aunt, friend and of course loving spouse to her deceased husband James Marvin Smyth. May her memory live forever in our hearts and souls, may her ideals live on and prosper, and may all of us strive to accomplish that which she has over the course of a life well lived.

It is worthy of noting that Ms. Smyth was a committed Christian who lived her faith. She and her husband were both members of North Avenue Presbyterian Church, she for over 50 years. Ms. Smyth, by her practical nature, would ask all who care about others to provide a donation in her memory to one of two organizations, these being the Center for Positive Aging or the North Avenue Presbyterian Church Urban Ministry Program. This latter program is designed to help others who are less fortunate, yes just as she was designed to help others. All of us who remain here on earth mourn our tremendous loss, but yet we are all so very happy that she sits on the right hand side of God and her savior Jesus Christ.

There will be a memorial service at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Ga., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, at 3 p.m. This will be in the sanctuary with a reception to follow in the Eldridge Room. Ms. Smyth will be buried beside her husband James Marvin Smyth. A graveside service will be conducted Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 at 1 p.m. at the Bloomfield City Cemetery in Bloomfield.

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