Tribute to Gay Smith

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I would like to say a word about my friend, Gay. When my daughter and I came to Malibu in 1990, I didn’t know anyone. Gay was one of the first people I met. I remember the encounter distinctly because Gay exuded an inner light. She was like an angel that drew on peace and joy from some quiet center within her being. You expect this from a Buddhist monk, but not at the cleaners.

From the beginning, she was warm and welcoming. It was also evident that there were no celebrities in her mind, only people who needed assistance. Many times I would bring something in and she would advise me that the best way to handle the item was to wash it, rather than clean it as I had suggested. She saved many pieces I brought to her just by looking at what she was doing and thinking of what would bring the best outcome.

Shortly after we met, I had to bring back six silk jackets that had been cleaned which now had small holes in the upper shoulders. Gay immediately knew someone had misused an appliance while loading the cleaning onto a truck. She showed me large pliers and held them up to the fabric for a perfect fit. Then came the hard part. Gay explained to me that this was a mistake which she would report if I wanted her to, as the jackets were all designer quality and represented a substantial investment. But she also told me that the new man would probably be let go as it was surely his error. She left it up to me.

I never regretted taking a pass on reporting those jackets. It was mainly because of the way Gay had put it to me. She understood that most people don’t want to hurt someone starting out who makes a mistake. Based on that secret we became friends, knowing we shared a common feeling about life. I always enjoyed stopping by to chat even when I had no cleaning.

I returned to New York in late ’94 for family reasons and came back again last year. When I walked into Ogden’s, Gay looked up from what she was writing and said, “I was wondering where you have been.” She came around the counter and gave me a big hug. Once again she advised me that I was trying to clean something that was better being laundered. At that moment, I felt I was really back.

Gay was one of those special people who are the cornerstones of a community. Hers was the modest way. Her gentle smile was there for each of us. It is hard to believe that such a graceful spirit could meet such a violent death.

I will always remember Gay: her kindness and her open heart. She shared her gifts with me, as she did with so many others. I will miss her terribly. I feel that she embodied the harmony for which we all come to Malibu. Her unique presence in our lives is changed. We will find her now, our newest angel, watching over us in the gentle breezes, the coral sunsets, laughter of friends and the delight of children. Peace, Gay, until we meet again.

Mary Lucy McGrath