Carolyn Ruth Smith Leighton, 92

Carolyn Ruth Smith Leighton, whose deep faith led her to care for the sick, teach religion and join her husband, the former Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, in visiting churches throughout the state, died of respiratory failure Aug.4 at Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville. She was 92.

Carolyn Ruth Smith grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Edgewood and met her future husband, David K. Leighton, in kindergarten. They began dating in high school.

"They had their first date on April Fool's Day 1938 and never dated anyone else," recalled a daughter, Nancy Koenig of Scottsville, Va.

Mrs. Leighton attended Carnegie Mellon University, Margaret Morrison College, where she joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She graduated with a degree in costume design in 1943 but put aside her interest in fashion to assist World War II efforts. She became one of the first female chemists at the Koppers Co. in Pittsburgh.

After Bishop Leighton returned from overseas service with the Army Air Forces in 1945, the couple married.

Bishop Leighton's experiences during the war inspired him to join the ministry. After long conversations with his wife, he enrolled in divinity school in 1952. She had been raised Methodist, he was raised Presbyterian, but both converted to the Episcopal faith.

Family members attempted to dissuade him from joining the ministry, saying the couple would not be able to provide for their children, but Mrs. Leighton said God would provide for them, Mrs. Koenig recalled.

"She would always say, 'We are so blessed,' " Mrs. Koenig said.

The couple moved to Baltimore in 1959, when Bishop Leighton was made the rector of Holy Nativity in Forest Park. He was named bishop of the Diocese of Maryland in 1972, and the couple moved to Clover Hill, the bishop's residence on Charles Street in Guilford, adjacent to the Episcopal cathedral.

There Mrs. Leighton hosted large gatherings for members of the church, according to a biography provided by family members. She was an active member of church committees, including the diocese's Prayer and Spirituality Ministries and the Episcopal Social Ministries.

She volunteered at the former Church Home and Hospital in East Baltimore for 25 years, and served as a member of the hospital's guild and women's auxiliary. For more than two decades, she helped organize the annual Lawn Fete for the Bishop's Guild on the grounds of the Episcopal cathedral.

"My parents were very much in partnership throughout their lives," said another daughter, Charlotte Leighton of Fort Collins, Colo. "They always took counsel together for any major decision."

While Bishop Leighton was slightly shy, Mrs. Leighton was naturally outgoing, Ms. Leighton recalled. Her mother enjoyed accompanying her father on his weekly visits to Episcopal churches around the state.

Mrs. Leighton shared her husband's deep faith, her daughters recalled, and for several years taught sacred studies at St. Paul's School for Girls, which Mrs. Koenig attended. The family would say a blessing before meals, read Bible stories together and sing hymns on the car ride to Florida for their annual vacation.

She also had a practical side, running a well-organized household. She taught her children how to sew and clean, cooked three meals a day from scratch, and was prepared to welcome anyone who stopped by for a meal.

Ms. Leighton recalled that her mother was so organized that she would polish her children's shoes while they took their afternoon nap.

After her children were grown, Mrs. Leighton returned to one of her first interests: fashion. She worked at the Saville Shop in Roland Park, joining the owner on trips to New York to buy new styles.

When Bishop Leighton retired, the couple moved to a 200-year-old farmhouse near Charlottesville, Va., where Mrs. Leighton joined several social organizations. They later moved to Annapolis and then Fairhaven, which Bishop Leighton had helped found. Bishop Leighton died in August 2013.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, 232 Saint Thomas Lane in Owings Mills.

In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Leighton is survived by a son, David K. Leighton Jr. of Soquel, Calif.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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