Rev. Ann Robb Smith, 93, died on June 6, 2021, at her home and in the company of her family in Northeast Harbor. Her life was a beacon of service to social justice.
Born and raised outside of Philadelphia in 1928 and daughter to Henry and Gertrude Robb, Ann excelled as a student at the Shipley School and the University of Pennsylvania. She married her childhood sweetheart, Kaighn Smith, MD, in 1950, and her life quickly became very busy with the arrival of her three children.
It was during the 1960s that Ann’s focus began to sharpen on the cause that would define most of her life’s work. The civil rights movement and the desire for equality for African-Americans motivated Ann to become politically active. She worked as a volunteer to support civil rights and attended protests to claim her voice in this struggle. At a similar time, the women’s movement also became central to her concerns.
Raised in the Episcopalian tradition, Ann became an active volunteer in her own church furthering the causes of equality and equity that she wished to champion for people of color and women. Her volunteerism included the Episcopal Church Women, Episcopal Community Services and president of the ECW at the Dioceses of Pennsylvania from 1971-74. Over time she became disillusioned with the church in her suburban neighborhood, and despite considerable pushback from her parents and neighbors, she moved her affiliation to the Church of the Advocate, an 18th century, historic church on Diamond Street in North Philadelphia. The church was almost entirely made up of African-Americans from this underprivileged part of Philadelphia and was led by the priest and community activist, Father Paul Washington. Ann was inspired by Father Washington’s leadership, activism and his fight for women to be ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church. In 1974, he led the first ordination ceremony for women in the Episcopal Church, at which Ann participated as a lay representative.
Ann would often speak of Paul Washington as her mentor, and with his encouragement she enrolled in the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia and was ordained priest on June 15, 1991. She spent the next 10 years working as assistant priest at the Church of the Advocate and served as dean of Wissahickon Deanery from 1996-1999. During these years, “Reverend Ann,” as she was called by parishioners, not only participated in church services but provided leadership in supporting the food kitchen, after school programs, fundraising and the building of a community center. These were vital services to adults and children in that neighborhood.
Ann left service as a priest in 2001 when she reached mandatory retirement age but remained on the Vestry of the Advocate until 2009. A lifelong visitor to Mount Desert Island and summer homeowners since 1966, she and Kaighn moved to MDI to live full time in 2012. She is survived by her husband, Kaighn, brother, Edwin Robb, daughters Gay Smith and Laurie Parker and son, Kaighn Smith Jr. In addition, she leaves four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to Friends of Acadia.
Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.