Linell Chenault Smith, an author, horse enthusiast and last surviving daughter of poet Ogden Nash, dies

Linell Chenault Smith bred and showed Arabian horses.

Linell Chenault Smith, whose life was defined by literature, art, music and her love for her thoroughbred horses who also edited and illustrated books by and about her late poet father Ogden Nash, died of myasthenia gravis and complications from pneumonia July 28 at her Sparks farm. She was 90.

“Linell was an extremely classy woman, a sweetheart, and just a great person, and she was one of my first clients,” said Dr. Michael J. Harrison, a Butler equine veterinarian, who has cared for her horses since the 1980s, and was also a thoroughbred breeding and racing colleague.


“People today can be rather abrupt and driven by self-serving reasons and they don’t treat others with courtesy and respect,” said Dr. Harrison, former president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. “Linell was the epitome of graciousness and class and an example I wish younger people would follow.”

Douglas M. Parker, the author of “Ogden Nash: The Life and Works of America’s Laureate of Light Verse,” described Ms. Smith’s personality as “elegant but down to earth, and that’s a combination you don’t often find.”


The former Linell Chenault Nash, daughter of Frederick Ogden Nash, and his wife, Frances Leonard Nash, a homemaker and patron of the arts, was born in New York City, and later moved with her family to a home on Rugby Road in Guilford.

She attended the Bryn Mawr School and graduated in 1950 from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, where her roommate was Lee Bouvier, who was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s sister.

“As children, she and her sister, Isabel Nash, were treated to a front row seat to their father’s linguistic creativity, from listening to his early drafts of humorous verse to watching him work with Kurt Weill and Vernon Duke at the family piano, creating such Broadway melodies as ‘Speak Low’ and ‘One Touch of Venus,’” wrote a daughter, Frances Rider Smith of Sparks, in a biographical profile of her mother.

It was through American operatic soprano and Metropolitan Opera star, Rosa Ponselle, who lived in the Greenspring Valley and who had recruited her for operatic singing in Italy in 1950, that Ms. Smith met and fell in love with John Marshall Smith, a Baltimorean and banker, who later became an insurance broker and founder of Marshall Smith & Co.

The couple married in 1951 and later moved to Riderwood, before settling into a farm on Belfast Road in Sparks, where they raised their three daughters.

“She was an avid reader, introducing her children to the world of Tolkien and T.H. White in the 1960s as she read aloud to them almost nightly — as her father and mother had read aloud to her and her sister,” according to her daughter’s profile.

She was able to weave her love of children, horses, literature and her father, becoming a successfully published writer in her own right.

Ms. Smith first turned to children’s literature, and in 1959 illustrated and published her first book, “Molly’s Miracles.”.She published “Parsifal the Poddley” under the name Nell Chenault the next year.


All of her books were published by Little, Brown & Co. of Boston.

“Parsifal Rides the Time Wave,” was published in 1962; “Miranda and the Cat” in 1963; “The Auction Pony in 1965; and finally, “Who’s Who In the Zoo,” which was done in conjunction with Baltimore photographer Sally Foster, in 1981. The book featured an introduction to zoo animals by Ms. Smith with photos by Ms. Foster.

Ms. Smith developed a deep appreciation and respect for Arabian horses through her friendship with Carl and Jane Asmus, who introduced her to the story of Witez II, a Polish Arabian stallion who survived World War II in Poland. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., who commanded the Third Army, and was a devoted and accomplished equestrian, had the horse sent to safety in the United States.

Captivated by the story, Ms. Smith traveled to Poland to research the story, and along the way encountered and interviewed those who remembered the animal. The research resulted in “And Miles to Go: The Biography of a Great Arabian Horse, Witez II,” that was published in 1967.

Ms. Smith illustrated three of Mr. Nash’s books: “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” in 1957; “Custard the Dragon” in 1959; and “Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight” in 1961, all published by Little, Brown & Co.

She selected the letters and wrote biographical introductions for the various sections of “Loving Letters from Ogden Nash: A Family Album,” that was published in 1990. Ogden Nash books that she edited included “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It,” that she edited with her sister Isabel Nash Eberstadt, as well as “The Best of Ogden Nash,” by Ivan R. Dee, and “Lineup for Yesterday,” that was published in 2011, which was an illustrated hardcover version of a 1949 baseball poem by her father for which Ms. Smith provided biographical notes.


“Also published then was a set of ABC baseball cards containing a four-line Nash tribute to a legend of baseball,” wrote another daughter, Linell Nash Smith, a former Baltimore Sun feature writer, who lives in Baltimore, in an email.

Ms. Smith and her sister, Ms. Eberstadt, provided research assistance and material to Mr. Parker whose book was published in 2005.

“Linell and her sister Isabel were enormously helpful to me in making themselves and their family available to me, and they were encouraging to me throughout the process. I was very grateful to them for that,” said Mr. Parker, who lives in Ojai, California. “Many Nash papers are held in the New York Public Library and at the University of Texas, and they had a number of Nash papers that are not in libraries.”

Mr. Parker and his wife rented a copying machine and came to Baltimore.

“We spent hours in Linell’s living room making copies and she couldn’t have been more hospitable,” she said. “I was so struck by that when people ask why I haven’t written another biography. I tell them I could never replicate the experience that I had working with the Nash family.”

Mr. Parker sent chapters from the draft of his manuscript to the two sisters for fact checking.


“As I completed a chapter, I sent a set to them, and I must say, they never requested that I do that, and because I knew they knew everything about their father, if they found anything wrong, they’d tell me,” he said. “They only found two things, and one was that I had the wrong year when major league baseball returned to Baltimore.”

For nearly a decade, Ms. Smith and her husband bred and showed Arabians, during which time her husband served a three-year term as president of the Arabian Horse Association of the East. She later “returned to a passion she developed as a child while attending the Pimlico race meets with her father, thoroughbred horse racing and breeding, her daughter wrote in her profile.

“She developed a keen sense of bloodline ‘nicks’ long before algorithmic equations surfaced in the late 1980s and was able to capitalize on this by purchasing old but well-bred broodmares past their prime and successfully turning them once again into productive horses.”

During the 1970s and 1980s, Ms. Smith found success when old mares she had taken under her care produced several very nice stakes-winning racehorses such as Gains or Loss, which was the progenitor of Lost Code, a nationally ranked sire, as well as Westering Home and Cold Iron.

When horseman Harry Love died and his family was out of the country, there was a need to find homes for his horses and Linell heard about it, and because she was compassionate, took two mares,” Dr. Harrison said. “I took one of them, Love and Kisses, that produced several foals for me.”

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

Ms. Smith maintained a lively lifelong interest in politics and current events, and while never standing for public office, worked in numerous political campaigns. She also was a civil rights activist and embraced the women’s liberation movement in the early 1970s after having suffered the indignity of having to get her husband’s written permission so she could race her horse at Delaware Park.


At the time, she also encouraged and supported female jockeys who were still being blackballed at many tracks across the country.

In the 1980s, Ms. Smith returned to singing when she joined the choir at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville, where she sang for 29 years before being forced to give it up after cataract surgery hampered her night driving.

“She was a soprano,” said Ed Shipley, former choir director. “She was a very, very nice person and was always the first person to volunteer whenever I needed music sorted or put away. She had such a positive attitude and whenever I got annoyed about something, she’d put her hand on my shoulders and say, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s going to be all right.’”

Her husband died in 1992.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to her two daughters, Ms. Smith is survived by another daughter, Brigid Smith Robbins of Fallston; and three grandchildren.