Ethel Mae Smith died peacefully at Windward Gardens in Camden on Feb. 7, 2012, just a few days shy of her 93rd birthday.

She was born Ethel Wood on Feb. 10, 1919, in Belfast to Mildred (Kittredge) and Ervin Wood, the only girl in a family with four boys. Her childhood was spent in poverty on a small, hardscrabble farm in rural Waldo County. Eager to be the first member of her family to attend high school, Ethel moved to Vinalhaven as a teenager to live with her aunt and uncle. The day of her graduation from Vinalhaven High School in 1938 was one of the happiest days of her life. It was on Vinalhaven that Ethel met her future husband, Edward E. Smith.

Ethel was a survivor who demonstrated a fierce determination to improve her life. She worked hard every summer at a wringer washing machine transforming endless baskets of laundry to sparkling clean, ironed linens for “summer people” on the island. In 1970 she left the island and moved to Wellesley, Mass., where she lived on the Wellesley College campus and worked as an assistant cook for 13 years. She enjoyed the independence and freedom of those years and remained lifelong friends with many of her coworkers.

Ethel was predeceased by her brothers Vertna and Cecil.

She is survived by her daughter, Patricia Smith of Belfast; her son, Jeffrey and his wife, Donna, of Vinalhaven; two treasured granddaughters, Jessica Smith of Cushing and Heather Swears of Vinalhaven; her brothers, Charles and Malcolm and Malcolm’s wife, Marion, who reside at the Bayview Manor Boarding Home in Searsport. Ethel had many loving friends whose expressions of caring sustained her in her last years.

Ethel’s family is deeply grateful to the staff at Windward Gardens who provided loving care and a sense of family for her during the five years she resided there. We also thank Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice for their support and tenderness. We extend special gratitude to her devoted friend, Alice Vardaro, without whom she could not have remained independent in her apartment for as long as she did, to Ellin Schooley for her loving friendship and to Skittles and Billy Bob, the second-floor cats, who provided Ethel with unwavering affection and comfort.

There will be a graveside service for family and friends when her ashes are interred at the Morrill Cemetery later in the spring. Gifts in her memory may be sent to a local animal shelter.

Arrangements are under the care of Riposta Funeral Home. Online condolences can be made care of