Beloved retired Kettering mayor nears 90

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 left role in 2005.

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It is said that keeping busy keeps a person young. That’s certainly true of Marilou Smith, who looks amazing and will be turning 90 on Jan. 18.

A native Daytonian, she and her husband Tom moved from north Dayton to Kettering 50 years ago. She volunteered throughout the community while raising seven children.

When they were grown, she worked as an office manager for a heating and air conditioning company for 15 years.

Then she served as an elected official of Kettering, eight years as a council member and eight years as mayor. She retired at the age of 78 in 2005.

“I was invited to every new store and new housing project and cut a lot of ribbons,” said Marilou. “I got to meet so many nice people. That was a lot of fun.”

She dipped her toes into local politics by first joining the Kettering Sister City committee. As a committee member, she attended council meetings. Councilman Vince Chalecki encouraged her to run for a council seat in 1989. She advertised with hot pink signs and won by a margin of 180 votes.

Among her highlights as mayor: demolition of the H&H Property on Wilmington Pike, purchasing Van Buren property, enhancing the Wilmington Pike corridor, completing Governor’s Place, the Fraze/Lincoln Park Commons project, and revitalization of Kettering schools.

“For the city’s 50th anniversary in 2002, we held a car auction for charity,” remembers Marilou. “There were 50 decorated cars parked all over the city throughout the summer. We raised almost $100,000 that fall.”

The 50 cars sold anywhere from $300 to a high of $15,000. Known as the “perpetually sunny mayor,” Marilou danced upfront twice during the auction when a miniature hotrod sold for $10,000, and another sold for $15,000. Her friend, Dayton mayor Rhine Mclin, and Kettering city manager Steve Husemann joined her in the impromptu celebration. Car sponsors designated a charity; some sponsored more than one. So 42 charities received a portion of the $92,000 raised during that October auction.

Her husband said he is proud of her accomplishments. He owned a Kettering insurance agency with his brother Larry that was sold eight years ago.

“I thought it was a great achievement that she was elected to two terms as mayor. She was always very dedicated,” said Tom. “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 citizens and officials/citizens in neighboring communities.

“She still gets asked today if she would consider running again. I just do not think some Kettering citizens realize her age,” said Shephard.

Whatever job she tackled, she was dedicated to doing her best. She was valedictorian of her senior class at Julienne High School. Whether it was student, office worker, councilwoman, mayor or mom, she gave it her best shot.

“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.