Obituary: Eleanor Harrison Smith, of Cheshire, formerly of Trumbull

Eleanor Harrison Smith
Eleanor Harrison Smith

Eleanor Harrison Smith, of Cheshire, CT died on Monday, July 17, 2017, aged 95.

Ellie was born in Bridgeport on Aug. 23, 1921, to Percy C.K. and Edna Morgan Harrison.

Ellie grew up in Bridgeport in the family home on Mill Hill Avenue. Her father was president of the Coulter and McKenzie Machine Company, a company founded by her grandfather, Edward J. Morgan. Ellie graduated from Warren Harding High School in Bridgeport in 1941; William Smith College, Geneva, New York in 1944; and Boston School of Occupational Therapy at Tufts University in 1947.

In 1948 she married Donald Ralph Smith, also of Bridgeport, whom she had known since high school. While Don was studying at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford, Ellie worked as an occupational therapist at Connecticut State Veterans Hospital in Rocky Hill. This challenging and rewarding job had her working with disabled veterans who she taught to knit, weave, and make baskets with their new prosthetic limbs. After earning his law degree, Don and Ellie moved to Nichols (Trumbull). Don established his law practice in Bridgeport, and Ellie went to work as an OT at Bridgeport Hospital, where she worked until their children came along.

During her nearly 88 years in the Bridgeport area, Ellie was involved in many charitable causes and organizations. Ellie was a devoted member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Nichols, where she served as President of the Episcopal Church Women. She gave her time to the Bridgeport Hospital Auxiliary, the Connecticut chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Trumbull Women’s Club and the Nichols Garden Club, among others. Ellie’s special love was the Girl Scouts, where she was an active and devoted member of the Housatonic Council for more than 88 years. For the scouts she organized the annual Zoo Day at Beardsley Zoo, which taught 900 girl scouts about wildlife and the environment, and she organized the first Connecticut International Camporee, where 500 scouts worldwide camped together in Stonington for two weeks. Ellie was presented the Woman of Distinction Award and the 40th Juliette Low Award for outstanding service to the scouts. Ellie was also a keen supporter of the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, through which she established a fund to support non-profit organizations whose aim it is to improve the lives of people nationally, but also in Bridgeport, where, for example, the Fund for Education and Youth Development and the Fund for Women and Girls make a large impact on the area in which she lived.

Ellie was skilled in all manner of crafts. She particularly loved drawing and painting, and her paintings hang in the homes and offices of her many friends. Ellie and Don were avid bridge players, both in Nichols and later when they moved to Elim Park. Ellie’s grand passion was travel, inherited from her parents, with whom she took her first transatlantic flight in 1935. With Don, she ventured around the world at least a dozen times, first with Pan American, and later on various cruise liners. Their most memorable cruise, perhaps, was the “route of the explorers” cruise on Cunard’s Sagafjord in 1996, which ended when, on route from Hong Kong to Kota Kinabalu, a fire broke out in the ship’s engine room, immobilizing the ship, and leaving 500 passengers and crew without power, lights, air-conditioning, running water, and flushing toilets. After 36 hours at sea, and four days while the ship was towed to Subic Bay in the Philippines, the passengers were given the option to return home or finish their cruise on either Cunard’s QE2 or Royal Viking Sun. Ellie and Don, along with a few other seasoned travelers, decided to continue their tour on the Royal Viking Sun. They were cruising in the Gulf of Aqaba when the Royal Viking Sun hit a coral reef, tearing a huge hole in the ship. It took two tugboats about 19 hours to tow the vessel to Egypt's coast and bring all passengers safely ashore. That adventure did not diminish their love of travel, and Ellie and Don instilled this love in their children and grandson, including them on a number of interesting and diverse foreign adventures.

Eleanor is survived by her children, Donelle Smith Staley (Andrew), of Champigny-sur-Veude, France, and Wayne Harrison Smith (Kathryn), of St. Petersburg, Florida. Other survivors include her beloved grandson Jerimaya Smith Grabher (Laura), of Redondo Beach, California, and her cherished great-granddaughters, Sophia and Gianna Grabher; her sister-in-law, Joan Edgerly, of Meriden; and numerous nieces and nephews. Ellie’s husband Donald R. Smith, brother Edward E. Harrison, and sister Emma Louise Frances predeceased her.

Friends and family are invited to celebrate Ellie’s life at either of two services. The first will take place in the Christ’s Chapel at Nelson Hall, Elim Park Place, 150 Cook Hill Road, Cheshire on August 19, 2017 at 11 a.m. The second service and burial of ashes will take place at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1734 Huntington Turnpike, Nichols, on August 22, 2017 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow both services.

In lieu of flowers, donations would be gratefully received for Trinity Church; the Girl Scouts Housatonic Council, 87 Washington Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604; or for the Eleanor Harrison Smith and Donald Ralph Smith Charitable Fund, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, 383 Main Ave., Norwalk, CT 06851. The Gregory F. Doyle Funeral Home, Milford, CT is in charge of arrangements. To leave an online condolence, please visit,