Jean W. Boyce-Smith

NAPA, Calif. — Jean Wentworth Harris Boyce-Smith died Friday, Sept. 25, amid love with her family by her side. She battled declining health since 2005 but kept her promise to her family, “not [to] go gentle into that good night.” She faced her death with quiet courage and dignity.

A native of Concord, N.H., she graduated from Barnard College, her family’s third generation of college-educated women. In 1948, the Royal Afghan Government recruited her and her husband, Walter Boyce, to teach English at Habibia University in Kabul, Afghanistan. On their return, she was New York editor for TV Dial Magazine and then associate editor of TV Guide’s New York edition. In 1953, they moved to Lewiston where he became first Dean of Men at Bates College.

She was an early member of the NAACP’s Lewiston chapter and on the Lewiston Public Library’s Board where she was actively involved in having the closed stacks opened. She taught English at Edward Little High School. Throughout her life she delighted in linking current events to classic literature.

After the deaths of her husband and mother, she moved to California and continued to teach. She married Perrin (Zeke) Smith in 1974. During their 36 years together, they traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world, sometimes via their sailboat or small airplane. After retiring, Jean and Perrin built a home on a Napa hilltop.

Jean was proud to be a member of PEN, published many short stories, and was working on a memoir of her Afghanistan experiences. In 2007, she wrote her own obituary, which stated in part: “a lover of life in all its forms (except perhaps spiders), Jean also loved music, theatre … New England in the autumn … the Hindu Kush … dogs (especially Dalmatians and Greyhounds), caramel syrup on ice cream …High Sierra mornings, Christmas, everybody’s birthdays, lobster … flying by Everest, listening at Machu Picchu to a lone Andean flute, Kipling, Emily Dickinson, Dostoyevsky and P. D. James, milk chocolate … films with subtitles where everybody dies in the end … Bach, Mozart and The Grateful Dead, expensive wine, Afghanistan, Afghans, egg salad sandwiches, new shoes, seashells, writing when it’s going well [and] parties.” She also loved crisp McIntosh apples, fresh flowers, and a glass of white wine at cocktail hour. … A lifelong Democrat with a weakness for bad puns yet a sharp wit, she stayed current on the latest trends. She was a generous hostess with a superb sense of style. She adored her husband, and her pride and love for her children and grandchildren knew no limit.

She is survived by her husband, Perrin F. Smith, of Napa, Calif.; daughter, Ann H. Boyce of Arundel; sons, Charles H. (Tammi) Boyce of Monson and Richard B. (Maria) Boyce of Soquel, Calif.; two step children; nine grand- and step-grandchildren including Christopher Boyce Dudley and Jeff and Jan Boyce of Maine; two great-grandchildren; and numerous friends.

She said “she was a very fortunate woman, who knew it” and asked that her body be cremated, the ashes scattered in the “High Sierra, the Atlantic Ocean at South Harpswell, Maine, and at random beyond the Khyber Pass.” Instead of a funeral, she requested a party with people drinking, sharing laughter, and telling stories about her. Her family will toast her memory in bourbon and good champagne, her favorite wine. She will be greatly missed.

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