Catherine M. Smith, 71, collector of antique quilts

May 20, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Catherine M. Smith, an antiques dealer who collected and sold heirloom quilts, died Monday of ventricular arrhythmia at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The Arnold resident was 71.

She was born Catherine Marie Gray in Kansas City, Mo., and was raised in St. Louis. She attended Saint Louis University and Anne Arundel Community College.

"She never graduated from grade school, high school or college," said her husband of 51 years, Terry C. Smith, who was a student at what is now Parks College of Saint Louis University, where he met his future wife at a tea dance.

"She had been a very good sewer, and during the 1960s, had been an area representative for Leiters Fabrics of Kansas City. She was also interested in sewing and pioneer women who made quilts as a form of expression," said her husband, who is retired from Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s Linthicum facility, where he had been director of communications, community relations and legislative affairs.

In 1970, she established the Cathy Smith Studio on Riggs Avenue in Severna Park, where she bought and sold vintage quilts.

"She also became a quilt maker and collector, and had a network ... working for her who'd find quilts in California, Florida, and New England, for instance, and then she'd buy them. In her own collection, she had a highly collectible Baltimore album quilt that dated to the 1800s," Mr. Smith said.

She enjoyed decorating the walls of her Arnold home and a second home in Delray Beach, Fla., with rare quilts.

"She also took damaged antique quilts and gave them new life by converting them into stylish women's vests. One vest was commissioned by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer to wear at the Baltimore Quilt Contest," Mr. Smith said.

Mrs. Smith was a member of the American Quilt Study Group and for years attended conferences held thoughout the nation. She was also a member of the World Craft Conference and attended its annual meetings.

"She was a dear, dear friend and was well-respected in the world of antique quilts," said Pat L. Nickols, a quilt historian and collector.

"Cathy made quilts that came from a background of historically interesting quilts. She also had a wonderful eye and could see the value in antique quilts," said Mrs. Nickols, a friend of 20 years who lives in Rancho Sante Fe, Calif.

After closing her Severna Park shop when she moved to Arnold in 1985, Mrs. Smith continued exhibiting her quilts at regional shows, including an annual exhibition at the Sully Historic Site in Chantilly, Va., the 1799 home of Richard Bland Lee, an uncle of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

"She was a quilt historian whose interests ranged from those made in the 1700s to an art quilt that was made yesterday. She had very eclectic interests," said Phyllis J. Twigg, an Annapolis resident who is an appraiser with the American Quilter Society. "She also had a highly valued and rare collection of toile and chintz fabrics that date to the 1700s."

Ms. Twigg described her as having a "very artsy bend" who was "very put together and vibrant in her style of dress."

Other interests included creating whimsical hand-painted furniture which she dubbed "FUNiture," her husband said.

She maintained booths at several local antiques malls, including the Chestertown Antiques Mall.

"She was a fabulous person who enjoyed being a mentor to new dealers. She was always very giving of herself and willingly shared her knowledge with others," said Marilyn Klompus, owner and founder of the Chestertown Antiques Mall.

Ms. Klompus said antiques show promoters were also fond of her.

"She had one of those faces that they liked to see come though the door. She had a fabulous sense of style, and when she swept into a room, her presence took it over," Ms. Klompus said.

She said Mrs. Smith sold quilts, textiles and sewing implements from her booth.

"The quilts were very popular and also the early 19th-century toile. She also sold lots of rare sewing items such as stumpwork pin cushions," Ms. Klompus said.

At her request there are no services.

Also surviving are three sons, Gregory Allan Smith of Grasonville, Robert Charles Smith of Severna Park and William Whitmore Smith of Durango, Colo.; two daughters, Michelle Annette Smith of Hyattsville and Susan Denise Huber of Annapolis; a sister, Jane Janis of St. Louis; and seven grandchildren. Another son, Michael Scott Smith, died in 1972.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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