Christine M. Smith


Christine M. Smith died peacefully on August 23, 2022, at her home in Edgartown. She was 81 years old. 

Gesa Christiana Martinoff was born on March 6, 1941, to Ralph Martinoff and Waldtraut Dorothea von Schilling of Tallinn, Estonia. Chris’ father was killed in action in World War II, and her mother later married Hans Walter in Germany, with whom she had three children. Chris’ family moved to Glenside, Pa., in 1956.

Chris was a graduate of the Lankenau School of Germantown, Pa., and La Perlaz of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Chris received her B.A. (1965) and M.A. (1969) degrees in French literature from the University of Pennsylvania. Chris also attended Columbia University and the City University of New York while doing graduate work toward her Ph.D. in comparative literature. Chris taught French and German at the University of Pennsylvania, the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia Community College, and West School in New Canaan. While studying at Penn, she met a law student, the love of her life and husband of 50 years, Owen C. Smith. Chris and Owen were married on Dec. 17, 1966, in Glenside.

Upon Owen’s return from the Vietnam War, Chris and Owen lived briefly in New York City, where their son, Philip, was born. Chris and Owen then moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, where their children Andrew and Sarah were born, before returning to Connecticut and settling in New Canaan in 1978. Chris was heavily involved in school committee and fundraising activities at the Commonwealth American School of Lausanne, Switzerland, the Hill School, the Lawrenceville School, the New Canaan Country School, and Kent School, where she served as a longtime trustee. Chris also served on the board of directors at Waveny in New Canaan, and was an officer of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Chris and Owen moved to Big Pine Key, Fla., in 2014.

Chris had a passion for ideas and beauty, which manifested in her love of literature, art, and music. She loved going to the New York Philharmonic and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her children. She devoured books, and had an astute knowledge of the history of the Baltic states, often intertwined with family lineage and lore. Chris’ preparation for her book groups was matched only by the festive gatherings she hosted, from her annual Christmas caroling party to fundraisers. People would gravitate to Chris because of her welcoming smile, cheerful laughter, and sincere interest in others.

She was an enthusiastic tennis player, graceful skier, and adventurous shipmate on cruises from the Virgin Islands to the Hebrides. Chris loved animals and gardening, and found joy in her last weeks coaxing a butterfly from its chrysalis to a majestic monarch that now graces her garden in Edgartown.

Chris was a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club, the Country Club of New Canaan, the New Canaan Winter Club, Chappaquiddick Beach Club, the Schilling Association (Verband des Hauses Schilling), and a Lady of the Edgartown Reading Room. She was also a member of the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, and St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, where her seven grandchildren were baptized. Chris loved her family above all, and felt lucky to have her siblings as knowledgeable and lively pillars of strength.

Christine is survived by her three children, Philip C. Smith II and his wife Chloe of Winterport, Maine, Andrew C. von S. Smith and his wife Shannon of New Canaan, Conn., and Sarah S. Betz and her husband William of Darien, Conn.; her brother Hans Walter and his wife Penny, and sister Marion Leonard and her husband Kim; seven grandchildren, Charles and Hazel (Phil), Adeline and Andrew Jr. (Andy), Oliver, Margaret, and Louisa (Sally); and her beloved dog of 17 years, Missy. Christine was predeceased by her husband, Owen C. Smith, and her brother, Ralph Walter.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, Conn., at 4 pm, followed by a reception at the church. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Christine’s honor to the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard: