Homecoming For Elle

Elda “Elle” Mae Smith, 96, went to be with Jesus on April 29, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska, at Twin Hearts Assisted Living for the Elderly. Elle was born on January 13, 1926, in Douglas Arizona, to Clifton and Mildred Smith. She is survived by her son, Richard, two daughters, Kasandra and Janette, seven grandchildren, and 26 great grandchildren. No formal services are planned at this time.


Mom has been the caring “Gramma” in our family—a woman who put her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends above career and her own dreams.


Take a moment and pan some golden memories with Elle…

Oh, yes! I remember the Great Depression: We lived in a wall tent on the banks of a stream near Fresno, California. These were hard time and jobs were scarce. People stood in government breadlines to feed their families. My father was a machinist by trade, and he designed a sluice box for finding gold. Dad built me a little sluice box too. Dad and Mom made enough money by panning for gold to avoid the breadlines.

When Dad got a letter from my Uncle Russel about a job opening at Sulfur Bank Mine at Clear Lake, we left the streams forever. Dad went to work for a rich man named Bradley, who lived in a big manse overlooking the company houses where the mercury miners lived. Dad maintained machinery in the caverns of the quicksilver mine, where crews filled up vats with liquid mercury.

Sulfur Bank Mine

We lived in a company house (without indoor plumbing) at the Sulfur Bank Mine for much of my adolescent years. Dad and Mom never really fit in among the mining crews. Dad was a moody sort (he suffered from mustard gas exposure in WWI), and the women in our community judged my mother to be hoity-toity. Mom had been a child-servant for a well-to-do family, and she scrimped and saved to pay a teacher to come to our house and give me ballet and music lessons.

I fell in love with Lake County and spent many hours alone, hiking the Clear Lake hills and swimming. My love and talent for drawing and painting grew from my fascination with the blush of colors in a brilliant California sunrise, and the iron gray bluster of rolling thunderstorms.

Clear Lake

In my teenage years, my father went to work as a machinist at the shipyards of San Pedro, near Long Beach. I adjusted to city life and graduated from Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, then attended Compton College.

My father had been a young soldier in World War I, and I marched in Dad’s footsteps. I joined the Women’s Army Corps and held special top-secret clearances. I was honorably discharged near the end of World War II.

Women’s Army Corps

Years of upheavals followed me after my military discharge. I lived most of my married life in California and Oregon, growing desperate to know my purpose for living. I am mystified that I never once heard about the peace that Jesus brings to those who serve him.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I met an elderly woman named Mrs. Grigsby, whose hefty frame appeared to be built to help people carry their burdens. We planted pansies in her flower garden together, and she took me under her broad, loving wing. She washed my dishes. She sat at my kitchen table and we read the Bible together. In time, Mrs. Grigsby led me to Jesus, who has wrapped his arms around me ever since.

I’ve lived with my daughter, Janette, and my son, Richard, in Oregon or Alaska for the last 30 years. It has been my privilege to hold many of my Alaska-born grandchildren and great grandchildren moments or days after birth.

Gramma and Rapha

Some seasons in my life have been as serene as the sun-kissed slopes of Denali. Other seasons were as “volcanic” as the eruptions of Mount Pavlof. But every season ultimately ends on God’s timetable… 


Wherever Mom lived, she painted God’s compassion into the landscape around her—through sacrifice, counsel, and hard work caring for others who could not care for themselves. She is now with her Savior—contented and healthy. Mom’s life is an invitation to all—to never give up, to put other’s first, and ultimately to give our lives to Jesus Christ, the one person we can trust through eternity.


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