Mary B. Smith, a philanthropist and a moving force behind the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, died Saturday of heart failure, her family said.
She was 70 and had lived in Las Vegas since 1961, when she married Fred W. Smith, a former Las Vegas Review-Journal executive and current chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The foundation, in the Smiths’ names, is a principal donor to the $485 million performing arts center, which is projected to open in 2012 at Bonneville Avenue and Grand Central Parkway.
"She was one of the first ladies of Las Vegas from the early ’60s who built the town," daughter Debby Smith-Magness said Sunday.
Foundation President Steve Anderson said Smith’s death is "a tremendous loss" personally and to the foundation family.
"I’m just sorry she’s not going to be there to see the opening of the Smith Center," he said.
Sherman Frederick, Review-Journal publisher and president of Stephens Media, said, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Smith family. Mary, the wife of the Review-Journal’s one-time publisher and longtime president, was a part of our extended family. We are saddened by her passing."
Smith, an avid golfer, gardener and University of Arkansas Razorbacks’ fan, was dedicated to her family and charities, especially The Salvation Army Ladies Auxiliary.
"Her grandchildren were the love of her life," Smith-Magness said. "She was happy, vivacious and upbeat until the minute she passed away. … She never wanted people to make a fuss over her. She was the one who did the fussing and took care of everyone."
In golf, she was one of the first members of the Las Vegas Country Club, where twice she hit a hole-in-one.
As a gardener, she was known to have a green thumb and was fond of blue irises.
"Mrs. Smith loved the iris flower, and people will see the iris flower throughout the building in architectural detail," said Myron Martin, president and chief executive officer of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
"The role that Fred W. and Mary B. Smith played in their realization of bringing this world-class performing arts center to Las Vegas is unprecedented," Martin said. "And when the Smith Center opens, Mrs. Smith’s sense of style and grace will be reflected in the building."
Born Mary Blanche Moore on May 4, 1939, in Van Buren, Ark., she was the youngest of eight children. As a teenager, she was a cheerleader at Van Buren High School, where she graduated in 1957.
She later worked as a secretary at an insurance company, where she met her future husband through a friend of his who was an insurance agent.
"The last thing she always said was, ‘I love you.’ And that’s the way she lived her life, positive and caring," Smith-Magness said. "The center was important, but it wasn’t about her. It was about the community and what she could do for her grandkids."
She is survived by husband, Fred W. Smith of Las Vegas; sisters Lillian Slater of Fort Smith, Ark., Dolores Cox of Austin, Texas, and Ola Burchett, of Oklahoma City; sons Wes Smith of Las Vegas and Dr. Jonathan Smith of Incline Village; daughter Smith-Magness of Las Vegas; and grandchildren Katie Magness, Geoffrey Magness, Dylan Smith and Ian Smith.
Her funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Thursday at Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave., north of Robindale Road.
The family requests that any donations be made to The Salvation Army.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308.