The following was submitted by the family of Dorothea Patricia Smith.
Dorothea Patricia Smith: A Creative Life. She encouraged us to live boldly, paint large, make music, and put our hands in dirt. To stretch the envelope into another space. To reject crawling into a hole with work. To paint big pictures of color and put them up on your walls. To get out and do things, have picnics, enjoy all the seasons, go exploring. Most importantly, to dream big.
Dorothea Patricia Smith, one of Cardiff’s oldest living matriarchs, passed peacefully on August 14, 2012 at the home she designed and built in Cardiff by the Sea in 1950. She was 94.
She had a brief, eight day decline in health, dying of natural causes in her bedroom surrounded by her loving family.
Dorothea was born in Minneapolis in 1917, moved to California when she was 2 years old, and to Cardiff by the Sea when she was 14. Her parents grew gladiolas commercially on rented land throughout Cardiff and Encinitas. Flowers remained popular during the Depression for weddings and funerals, and when the flower crop was good and the demand high at the Los Angeles flower market the family frequently sold out every last organic flower. However, the year Dorothea was planning to attend college at UCLA, 1935, a devastating freeze wiped out the flower crop. She stayed home to work and help the family, and consequently did not attend college.
Dorothea met Milton Anthony Smith, her to-be husband, on the tennis court at Glenn Park in Cardiff when she was 18. Their first date was to see “Pennies from Heaven” at the Spreckles Movie Theatre in downtown San Diego. They eloped and married in 1937. She told the minister that she did not want the wedding vows to include the word “obey” and they exchanged rings that came from a Cracker Jack box.
They built their first house in Cardiff on the beach in 1938, where the Beach House Restaurant is now located. She gave birth to her first child at age 22. Three more children subsequently followed.
The couple founded Smith Construction Company, which became the largest employer in Cardiff. The company built the Cardiff Elementary School, the Poinsettia Bowling Alley, the Solana Theatre, as well as performing excavation, grading and paving for roads and parking lots throughout the county. Smith Construction Company purchased 40 acres of the San Dieguito River bed in Rancho Santa Fe to provide sand for the construction company, as well as 12 lots on the east side of highway 101, where the Kraken is now located. At the height of the business, they had a fully operational building department, cabinet shop, fence department, asphalt paving department, and sand plant that sold rock, gravel and sand. Dorothea learned to run the business as a protection in case Milton was drafted during WWII. As one of the only contractors in the area, and suffering with one eye shot out with a bb gun at age 12, he was not drafted.
Architecture was Dorothea’s passion, and she believed that had she been born a man, or in a different era she would have been an architect. In the late 1940s she designed her signature Cardiff home with architect Ray Jung. Her mid-century modern home, on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean, was considered almost scandalous at the time. Neighbors wondered why she would want a home with so many windows and no curtains. She frequently shared her strongly held opinions on what makes good home design. A house must be oriented toward the south, so the sun floods in all day to provide both light and heat. Designing the utility areas for efficiency of movement is key. The person bringing in the groceries, cooking, washing dishes, and folding laundry must be honored with taking as few steps as possible. The design must allow multi-tasking easily and efficiently. The spaces must be utilitarian but also beautiful because that is where the homemaker spends so much time. And always, always, there must be immediate access to the outside. Indoor and outdoor living must be designed no matter the site restrictions. It pained her to see apartments built without balconies. The first thing Dorothea did every morning was go outside onto her private deck to take in the day.
Dorothea and Milton were both active in founding and growing the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach. The Smith Construction Company built the outdoor amphitheater that continues to be used today for weekly services. Dorothea lived a generation longer than Milton, with him passing away in 1986 and her surviving another 26 years.
Dorothea is survived by her four children, Rosemary Smith KimBal, Donna Marie Thomas, David Anthony Smith and Tricia Ann Smith; her grandchildren Catherine Smith Blakespear, Victoria Theodora Blake, Tobin Enion Smith, Taiya Milton Smith, Corbin Richard Smith, Janice Lee Petras, Barbara Ann Toth, and eight great-grandchildren, two of which were active in her daily life, often waking her up in the morning with their wonderful giggles and cheerful enthusiasm, Ava Blakespear and Oliver Blakespear.
When Dorothea turned 90 years old, her family helped her write a book about her life, entitled Dorothea Patricia Smith, The First 90 Years. It is available in San Diego County Libraries.
Having nurtured a large fruit and avocado orchard for more than half a century, Dorothea became interested in her 90s in helping children understand where food comes from. She wanted school children to pick fruits, berries and other edibles straight from the plant and eat them. Dorothea paired with like-minded teachers and administrators at Cardiff Elementary School to create the non-profit organization Scrumptious Schoolyards to help make that vision come true. She provided the school with 20 apple and tangerine trees for the campus, choosing those fruits because they ripen during the school year when kids are on campus. Donations in honor of Dorothea can be made to Scrumptious Schoolyards, Cardiff Elementary School, 1888 Montgomery Avenue, Cardiff, CA 92007.
For all those who loved and appreciated Dorothea, join her family and friends for a Celebration of Dorothea’s Life Memorial Service on September 29, 2012 at 1 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito, 1036 Solana Drive, Solana Beach CA 92075.