‘She was unstoppable. She was loved.’ Kettering’s first female mayor dies at 93

Marilou Smith, retired Kettering mayor, turns 90 this month. PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED
Marilou Smith, retired Kettering mayor, turns 90 this month. PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED

Marilou Smith, Kettering’s first female mayor, died on Thursday, Jan. 7. She was 93.

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Smith was compassionate and hardworking and tirelessly worked to make the lives of those in Kettering better, current Kettering Mayor Don Patterson said.

“Once she met you and you had the distinct honor to meet her, she never forgot and always stopped to ask about you and your family,” he said. “She was unstoppable. She was loved. Mayor Smith was the finest ambassador for the city of Kettering, a vital asset to the community and is a genuine friend to all its residents. She was the people’s mayor.”

A Dayton native, Smith graduated from Julienne High School in 1945, where she was the senior class president and valedictorian. She was later inducted into the combined Chaminade-Julienne Catholic High School Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1999, according to her obituary.

Smith and her husband, Thomas Smith, moved to Kettering around 50 years ago. Marilou Smith worked with the Sister City Committee, spent eight years on City Council and then was Kettering’s first female mayor from 1998 to 2006.

Her husband said he is proud of her accomplishments. Marilou Smith created the “Start Your Engines” contest and display for Kettering’s 50th anniversary, served as a member of the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations, led the south quadrant of marchers in a Martin Luther King Jr. march and co-hosted the Kettering-Oakwood MLK Jr. Breakfast.

She also helped Kettering win top honors in the America in Bloom competition by encouraging residents to maintain their lawns and plant flowers, Patterson said.

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“It was a great achievement that she was elected to two terms as mayor. She was always very dedicated,” Thomas Smith said. “She’s had four loves in her life: love of God, family, the U.S.A. and Kettering.”

Her daughter, Stasia Shephard of Oakwood, said her mother was extremely well-liked as mayor, both by Kettering residents and those in neighboring communities.

“I’ve always seen mom as very selfless, whether it was taking food to a sick neighbor, or comforting a family member after losing a loved one. She was also very fair-minded. She always wanted to know both sides of the story,” said Shephard.

Survivors include her husband of 72 years, Thomas Smith; seven children; 13 grandchildren; four great grandchildren; and a sister. She was preceded by her brother and another sister.

A small graveside service was held at Calvary Cemetery. A memorial service will be held when it’s safe to gather again, possibly this summer.

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