Eleanor Clapp Smith

On February 4, 2015, Eleanor Clapp Smith passed away peacefully with family surrounding her at the age of 93. Eleanor was born September 7, 1921, in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Paul T. and Urith (Smith) Clapp. She is a descendent of Thaddeus Clapp and Jarvis Adams who were Michigan pioneer farmer families.

Eleanor graduated from Galesburg High School in 1939 and was the Kalamazoo County Tennis singles champion from 1936-1938.  She continued to play tennis well into her 80s.  Her education included Western Michigan University, E.W. Sparrow Hospital School of Nursing RN program graduating in 1943.  Shortly after becoming an RN, Eleanor served as a Navy Nurse (Ensign) in World War II and was stationed at the Marine Corps base on Parris Island, SC.  After the war she attended University of Michigan under the G.I. Bill and Johns Hopkins University.  She resumed her nursing career as a visiting nurse in Baltimore, MD, Washington, D.C. and in Richmond, VA.  Her community work was well known at Sparrow Hospital where she served on the Women’s Board of Managers for 25 years and was the coordinator of the Free Breast Self-Examination clinic for 20. Eleanor co-authored Sparrow Tale I (history of Sparrow nurses) in 1987 and volume II in 1996. She contributed towards the advancement of medicine by participating in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study in 1976 which was the longest most comprehensive study ever done on women and lasted for 25 years. She was a member of many organizations that included the Lansing Chapter of D.A.R., Sparrow Hospital Nurses Alumnae, P.E.O. sorority coordinator for International Peace Scholarship students at M.S.U. and Zonta Club.  In her spare time she enjoyed playing and being a member of the Second Time Around Ladies Band for 25 years.

Eleanor is survived by 2 daughters, Mary Lou Smith of Boulder, CO, Marcia (David) Olds of East Lansing; 2 sons, Maurice (Marta) Smith of Grand Ledge and Bradley (Deborah) Smith of Indio, CA; 8 grandchildren, Eliza (Ryan), Charlotte, Robert, Nick, Justin (Sarye), Katie, Kelli (Todd) and Orion; 4 great-grandchildren, Berrick, Mitike, Karsyn and Dillon; 6 nephews, Paul, Steven, Jeffery, Joe, Al, Danny; and 4 nieces, Susan, Diane, Sue and Charlotte. Eleanor was preceded in death by her husband, Robert D. Smith and two sisters, Charlotte and Mary Louise.

Eleanor has unselfishly donated her body to the University of Michigan Medical School for medical research. A memorial service will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 5, 2015, the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Her ashes will be interred at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, MI, at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20, 2016.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Plymouth Congregational Church or the Sparrow Foundation.

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5 Messages to “Eleanor Clapp Smith

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Frank Carter
February 10, 2015 at 8:16 am

Eleanor was at the same care facility as my wife, Joyce, who had died 5 days earlier. She ate meals at the same table as Joyce. Eleanor always had a smile on her face and her eyes were bright. When my wife was having difficulty with behavior, she had an expression of concern. She always looked up at me and smiled when I would enter the room. It was obvious that she was a great lady.

Carla Gates
February 10, 2015 at 2:50 pm

I had the pleasure of calling this beautiful lady a friend for 30 years. Together we played tennis, took day trips, drank lots of coffee, ate ice cream, and talked and talked. No matter what I happened to be doing, she was my biggest cheerleader. From her I learned to be a better person. She was always loving and forgiving and saw every experience as a learning experience. No matter the situation she approached it from a position of love and caring and when she made a commitment to a cause she was in fact committed to it (for many, many years!). As her life challenges increased she never lost that care for others or her beautiful smile. May her next adventure be awesome and she continue to feel the love that she so generously nurtured.

Sue Bellows
February 19, 2015 at 7:45 pm

I knew Eleanor from DAR. She was always pleasant, fun to talk to, and she had some great stories. She will be missed. She was a great lady.

Sharon Patton
February 20, 2015 at 9:19 am

I only knew Eleanor for a short time through DAR, but I so enjoyed her company and stories. I will miss her presence.

Mary Anne Verleger
March 4, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Dearest Eleanor,

You will be missed so much by our family and all of your many, many friends and family.

You always had such sparkling, smiling eyes and I knew you were just as happy to see us and we were to see you.

Talk about a full life, you certainly were active in so many organizations and charities, which showed what a big heart you had.

I always loved how passionate you were about music, history, women’s rights, and those in need. I loved reading your stories, you were such a good writer and really made your stories come alive. I always thought a book of your writings should be published because you caught the real spirit of the event.

I was also impressed with the care you gave to your sister when she became ill and through her final days and beyond, your service to others through nursing and Sparrow Hospital, the Plymouth Congregational Church, the Zonta Club, and many other charitable and service organizations. The joy that you got from taking your friends to the doctors and popping your head through the window to say a quick hello to Jenny. Inviting the study abroad exchange students to live in your home and staying in contact with them once they returned to their homes. And now, even in death, how you unselfishly donated your body for medical research.

You really came alive when the music was playing and how you loved playing with the Second Time Around Band. What fun we had at our party in the back yard when you got up on stage and played your “bones” to the music and received a standing ovation. And how you laughed at us girls up on stage with our long black dresses, boas, and wide-brimmed hats imitating the Supremes singing “Stop In The Name of Love” with all the Motown choreography we could muster.

You nearly wore your car out going back and forth to Galesburg to visit your mother and friends. Even your last trips to visit your dear friend Helen Milliken when she was ill and traveling with your friends to attend her funeral was so very interesting to hear you talk about – you were a true friend to the end and now I know you have many friends with you in heaven to hold on to and hug.

You were always willing and raring to travel. Mom and dad had so much fun with you and Bob fishing in Canada, going on a cruise or a trip to Las Vegas. Even in the convalescent home when we would visit you, you would say, “I’m ready to go whenever the Lord calls me.” like you just couldn’t wait for that next adventure. Then we would have to hold you back and tell you not to be in such a big hurry.

I loved hearing about your travels and work while you were in the service, caring and nursing the wounded, ringing the Liberty Bell, seeing President Roosevelt, and later being invited to the christening of the USS Carl Vinson.

I love that you had this past year or so for people to stop by and visit and say their goodbyes. They said that you received more visitors than everyone else, and that certainly isn’t a big surprise to me. To have your children and grandchildren willingly make so many trips across the country to visit you let alone the daily and weekly trips by the ones close by speaks of their great love for you . How thrilled you were when people from your writing group, the church, Zonta and Galesburg came to visit.

We all loved to hear the stories of visiting the farm when growing up and feeding the pigs and chickens and riding the horses. It was easy to believe that you won the tennis championship back in high school – you were always so very full of energy.

I’m not quite sure what the ice cream and chocolate companies in Lansing are going to do without your business. It seems like almost every time we walked in for a visit you had a cup of ice cream. That your doctor would allow you to have as much ice cream as often as you wanted makes me envious. Though my sisters always used to joke that we wanted to make sure we had a prescription for CP….cocktail privileges, we might have to reconsider getting a prescription for HFS…hot fudge sundae privileges instead.

Eleanor, you were one of the few women that always held my hand or arm when we walked to or from the MSU hockey games. Not that you needed the support, you just liked to be close to others.

How you enjoyed having your walls filled with pictures of all those special moments that you treasured with your mother, children, grandchildren and dear friends.

While most people are anxious about having to go into assisted living, I know it really was a blessing for you because of the number of visitors who stopped by on a regular basis. I think everyone made a special extra effort where you were concerned because you had always made the effort where others were concerned.

Eleanor , you were so very blessed to have not only your daughter, Mary Lou, to raise but the gift of your sister’s three children, Brad, Maurie, and Marsha who all came to love you as their mother. How your face would light up when you would talk about one of the kids or grandchildren or even Tucker, Maurie’s dog.

I loved how you were always current and well read. You always had some newspaper article or picture to share with us when we went out to lunch or when we sat out on our deck visiting. I still remember your dining room table filled with books and articles and pictures.

Eleanor, I know you are in heaven with your dearest friends and that you are playing music with those “bones” and dancing and probably playing a few rounds of tennis and golf. Can’t wait to see you again so we can enjoy those hot fudge sundaes.

May love and the peace of Jesus Christ be with you always my dear, dear friend,

Mary Anne Verleger


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