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Generosity of St George’s ‘matriarch’

Grace Smith

A funeral will be held today for Grace Smith, a “matriarch” of St George’s known to many for her generosity.

Ms Smith, who died on February 10 at the age of 98, “believed in charity more than anything else”, her daughter Rose Douglas recalled.

“She taught us that if we want society to be better then we would have to give back. It was what we did. We didn’t plan to do it, just flowed into it.”

Ms Smith acquired her belief in caring through her mother Minnie Drew, Ms Douglas added, who came from the tight-knit Tucker’s Town community where looking after one another was “an automatic way of life”.

“You didn’t go to bed with your stomach full while your neighbour was hungry. That was how she lived. It was amazing.”

When her son Phillip played football, Ms Smith volunteered to clean all the team’s uniforms on her old-fashioned clothes wringer.

Ms Smith’s legendary cooking was dear to many in the East End community who were in need of a meal, or just wanted to drop in for a chat.

Ms Douglas recalled her mother studying cosmetology to open her beautician’s business by Shinbone Alley, where demand for her hair styling brought many in the community together over more than 20 years.

She also ran a guesthouse from a few spare rooms of her residence on Kent Street.

A long-term supporter of the Committee of 25, Ms Smith also worked for the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and the Red Cross during the Second World War. She was a church girls’ brigade leader and honoured at Government House for her long support of the girl guides. She also supported the Sunshine League, and regularly marched on Remembrance Day for her brother Alfred, lost in the war when his ship was sunk.

A mother of five known for her strictness but also her deep love of children, Ms Smith was devoted to St Peter’s Church, where she will be laid to rest today at 2pm.