Friends Remember ‘Beautiful and Vibrant’ Smith

One year after her death, friends of Marian H. Smith say that they still remember and miss her every day.

Smith, who would have been a senior in Winthop House this year, died on Dec. 6 last year in an apparent suicide.

She was an anthropology concentrator known for her vibrancy, warmth, and excellent sense of style.

Born in Kenya and raised in Somalia and Luxembourg, Smith spoke six languages and loved music and foreign films. She chose her concentration based on a desire to develop a fuller understanding of humanity.

Friends recalled many fond memories of Smith, and added that now they are starting to understand the reasons behind her decision.

“We all knew her for so long, and most of those were very good memories,” Angie J. Thebaud ’05 said. “Her death was just one unhappy day out of many happy ones.”

Amy L. Dildine ’04 recalled the experiences she enjoyed with Smith such as sharing Kix, candy and stories during their first year at Harvard, and going out to dinner and bars more recently.

“We always had a really good time, and talked about a lot of things,” Dildine said. “I only wish we could have talked about something that would have helped her in the future, but I guess we didn’t get there.”

“I think about Marian almost every day, but very rarely is it a sad occurrence,” Emilie S. Fitzmaurice ’05 said. “It’s the same way that certain things remind you of anyone—funny things that she did, things that we did together.”

Fitzmaurice added that the passage of time brings poignancy to the memories she has of her friend.

“All year we sort of have memories, like, one year ago we were doing this, and Marian was there, and after [today], that won’t be the case anymore,” Fitzmaurice said. “It’s a little sad to move away from her in time.”

Thebaud said she values the time the time she had with Smith, and recalls her with gratitude much more then resentment.

“Marian was beautiful and vibrant and rare, and those things are necessarily fleeting,” Thebaud said.

Dildine said that the past year has allowed her to start to gain some closure on Smith’s death.

“The more I thought about it, the more I understood what she was doing,” Dildine said. “At first, we weren’t expecting it at all, but now we look back at it, and we sort of know what was going through her mind, now that we’ve read the letter she left us. I still think about it every day, but it’s gotten a little better.”

Katherine E. Szostak ’05 agreed that the year has given her time to reflect on the event.

“My perspective has become a lot more understanding and peaceful,” Szostak said.

Smith’s friends said that regardless of the time passed, they still feel the loss that her death caused.

Thebaud said that her friends will get together informally this weekend to note the passage of a year.

“My friends and I are probably going to do something small and intimate, but not necessarily sad—it doesn’t necessarily need to have these dark overtones,” Thebaud said. “It will be low-key and casual, we just don’t want to let the day go by unnoticed.”

Counselors from the mental health services department of University Health Services will be co-hosting a conversation to mark the anniversary of Smith’s death with Leverett, Winthrop and Eliot Houses today, according an e-mail sent out by Winthrop House Senior Tutor James von der Heydt.

Von der Heydt said that those Houses were chosen because Smith’s “intertwined social groups” were strongest in them.

The format will be set by the UHS counselors, von der Heydt said, and will depend on the experiences of those who attend the discussion.

“It’s really about the people who come, not something that can be set in advance,” von der Heydt said of the program for the conversation.

UHS staff members who specialize in depression and bereavement will talk with the group, which will meet at 3:30 p.m. in the Winthrop Senior Common Room.

Winthrop House will also hold a fireside open house tomorrow.

“It will be a time to be together, not to talk about the specific matter necessarily, to be in observance, but not in any ceremonial way,” said von der Heydt, who will host the event in his residence.

-Staff writer Katharine A. Kaplan can be reached at kkaplan@fas.harvard.edu.