Edward Smith Tribute to Marina Smith
Sunday 26th June 2022
It was June 1961. I was sitting in the Methodist Minister’s office after Sunday service. There was a little knock at the door – and there in the doorway was a gorgeous girl.
‘My car won’t start. Can I use your phone?’
Bless that broken-down car! We had a cup of tea together, and I learned that she was starting work next term at a local grammar school as head of Religious Education. She ransacked my library. It took two of us to carry the books into the car.
When term started, I was invited by her to speak to the students, and went back after for ‘tea’ to her digs. Actually, she was going to serve cup-of-tea, but I needed the something-to-eat kind of tea, so I scrambled some eggs and she made the toast… a homely way to start off our relationship. Eight weeks later we were engaged. We were in love, and in our late twenties. There was no stopping us. I had found the love of my life – Marina Fleming.
The following August we were married at Sidcup. After a honeymoon holiday in Scotland, marred only by our failed attempt to go camping in the hills, we arrived at our new post in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. We were glad we still had the camping equipment when we arrived as we were a few days early, and there was no furniture in the house! We were obviously very happy together, we did not notice how cramped our house was, nor how poorly maintained.
I remember our relationship was always about laughter. I would joke and pull her leg. She would laugh and hit me and tell me to stop making her laugh so hard.
Within days of setting up home, I realised Marina’s ability to help and care for individuals. She was a magnet for people with all sorts of needs. One day, I returned from visiting to find a couple in the lounge, another in my study, and a third sitting on the front porch.
Stephen and James were both born in Ashbourne. Virtually as soon as they could walk, they were laying tables and tidying up for the stream of visitors we had.
We moved first to Mansfield, and then to the coal-mining village of New Ollerton in 1972.
Our home was seldom empty. Marina worked part-time at the local comprehensive school. So we had middle aged congregants with marital problems and disaffected teenagers ransacking the house at the same time.
Such was the nature of our work that Marina felt we should provide support, counsel and retreat to ministers and their parishioners on a permanent basis. We bought a derelict farmhouse which Marina named ‘Beth Shalom’ – House of Peace. It certainly was not the ‘House of Quiet.’
Beth Shalom was a retreat and conference centre. But as groups came and went, Marina’s gift for caring and counselling came to the fore, and the house became a place of respite, healing and support for many hundreds of people with personal and social problems. It was my pleasure to support her in that work.
In 1981 we went to Israel as a family. This was a turning point for us as a couple and a family. We enjoyed being in Israel, discovering some of our spiritual and theological roots in Judaism. A decade later when the boys shared desire to start a Holocaust Centre at Beth Shalom with Marina, she was enthusiastic to support them, knowing that they had important work to do. A few years later in 1995, the Beth Shalom Holocasut Centre was opened.
Marina’s desire all along was that Beth Shalom should be a place of memory for the Holocaust survivors. As was always her principle, it should foremost be a place they could recognise as their own. A place to feel at home in.
I never imagined when I met that beautiful young girl in my office, that almost sixty years later I would love her just the same. I have had the privilege of sharing in her life. I have seen her give a hundred thousand hugs, everyone of them genuinely meant. I have seen her joys and her sorrows, her abounding energy, her sense of justice, her warmth and her hospitality. Words spring to mind; compassionate, caring, dynamic. She was an amazing mother to our two sons, but she also treats strangers as a mother would. I have heard people her own age talk about her as their ‘mother,’ as she cares, supports, chastises and prides herself in everyone’s success.
I know more than anyone else that what you see, is what you get… she was always the genuine thing. There is no other Marina than the one you cannot but help come to know and love.
Today she left me. I have been in the situation as a minister of religion where I have been the one comforting bereaved families. It is very hard for me to find that this time it is me that is bereaved of a person I wanted to be with until my dying day.
Every time I read Proverbs 31 about the ‘valiant wife’, I am certain in my heart of hearts that it was written especially for her.. which has made me the most privileged husband on earth.
We joked and laughed our whole life together and now there is silence.
Rest in peace my sweet Marina. As I told you in the hospital this week. You have been the one and only woman in my life.
I have loved you always, and I always will.
26 June 2022