Dorothy Smith, a devoted wife and mother who embraced the role of family historian, died Monday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at Copper Ridge Institute in Sykesville. The longtime Baltimore resident was 84.
Dorothy Williams was born near Evian, France, in Divonne-les-Bains. She was raised by her maternal grandparents, who were direct descendants of King Louis IX of France. Her father, Col. Roger Williams III, a career Army officer, was a descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island.
Her parents divorced when she was young.
Mrs. Smith's ancestors built Chateau de Divonne -- the family home -- in 1123. Overlooking Lake Geneva, the home has since been converted into a resort hotel run by her family.
As a child, Mrs. Smith learned to swim in the lake, to play golf at Divonne and to ski in the Swiss Alps.
She was schooled by a German governess and a British nanny. Her informal education included visits from Geneva's diplomatic community.
When she was 15, she moved to Lutherville with her mother -- Florence de la Foret-Divonne Williams, a one-time amateur golf champion in Switzerland -- and her stepfather, Charles L. Marburg.
She continued her schooling at Notre Dame Preparatory School and completed it at the Greenwood School. She attended secretarial school and learned typing, shorthand and bookkeeping.
Shortly before the United States entered World War II, she met C. Edgar Smith Jr., who was on a nationwide tour as an actor with Princeton's Triangle Club, which cultivated such big-screen stars as Jimmy Stewart.
By coincidence, Mr. Smith was a descendant of a French finance minister who, during the French Revolution, fled to a house 12 miles from her ancestral family home at Chateau de Divonne.
World War II interrupted the couple's engagement. Mr. Smith enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific.
Mrs. Smith became a volunteer during the war, working with the Red Cross and at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Children's Hospital as a nurse's aide. Her mother sometimes stepped into the role of ambulance driver while Mrs. Smith tended to patients.
She also did bookkeeping for construction and home-repair company owner Francis "Duke" Williams.
After Mr. Smith returned from the war, the couple married in 1947. They lived briefly in Washington before building a home on 13 acres in Riderwood in 1951.
Their eldest daughter, Claire Smith Inayatullah of Baltimore, said it was there that her mother raised her "real" first child -- a 35-pound white rabbit named Harvey, after Jimmy Stewart's invisible, 6-foot rabbit in the movie of the same name.
Mrs. Inayatullah said her mother used the rabbit in a practical joke one night, confusing a drunken dinner guest by letting Harvey roam freely and telling everyone else to ignore the white rabbit in the room.
The family moved to Guilford in 1962.
Harvey wasn't the only animal Mrs. Smith raised. Having grown up with a variety of dogs in France, she chose as her constant companions a series of black Labrador retrievers. She even baby-sat the canine "grandchildren," her daughter said.
An athletic woman, Mrs. Smith also enjoyed salmon fishing, shooting, riding and playing tennis with friends. She and her husband enjoyed golfing.
Calling her mother a "gardening fanatic," Mrs. Inayatullah said Mrs. Smith had a gifted touch with gardenias, jade plants and brightly colored annuals and perennials, and took pride in landscaping her homes.
Mrs. Smith also painted and took adult-education classes. She was a talented cook, passing on recipes for sweetbreads and creme caramel to her daughter.
Mrs. Smith returned to her roots frequently, taking her children with her to France to instill in them the family's history.
Shortly after her husband died in 1998, Mrs. Smith moved to Copper Ridge, where she taught one of the nurses to speak French and enjoyed listening to classical music.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 4 at St. David's Church, 4700 Roland Ave.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Smith is survived by a son, Charles Edgar Williams Smith of Baltimore; another daughter, Anne Smith Feld of London; a brother, Roger Williams IV of Lexington, Ky.; and four grandchildren.