Mary Hester (Livas) Smith

March 23, 1918 ~ July 31, 2020 (age 102)



Mrs. Mary Hester (Livas) Smith

March 23, 1918 ~ July 31, 2020 (age 102)

Mrs. Mary Hester Livas Smith departed this life peacefully in her home on July 31, 2020.  She was a devoted wife, loving mother, dedicated Sunday School and Public School teacher and loyal sorority sister and friend to so many throughout the Durham community.

She was born in Springfield, Ohio on March 23, 1918 to Hattie and Harry Livas.  She moved to Durham, N.C. with her mother and grandmother at the age of 11. She graduated from Hillside High School in 1934 but returned to Ohio to attend Wilberforce University. There, she was initiated into the Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

Following graduation from college, she returned home to Durham and within a few years she married the love of her life, John Odis Smith, a widower with two young children. She went on to become “Mama” to Joyce Ann and O. Nathaniel. The Smiths celebrated 67 years of marriage before “John O”  passed away in 2014. In 2015, her son also preceded her in death.

Mrs. Smith taught for 32 years at Hawley School in Creedmoor, NC;   Shepard Junior High and Rogers-Herr Junior High Schools, Durham, N.C. where she was instrumental in developing young leaders through her work with the Student Council.  Her students always kept in touch long after they had grown older and had families of their own. She worked for WRAL-TV “Call For Action” for fourteen years, and even served as a Director.  She was also an accomplished pianist and organist, and loved playing for church functions, family and friends.

Mrs. Smith was one of the first women to be ordained as a Deacon at her beloved White Rock Baptist Church and served many roles for the parish. Deaconess Smith, at 102 years old, was one of 3 centenarians in the White Rock family.  She had the distinction of being the oldest in membership - NINETY YEARS AND TEN MONTHS!

Deaconess Smith was very active in the ministries of White Rock on into her senior years.  Until the Covid-19 virus created restrictions on attendance, she faithfully attended worship services and bible study classes.  Over the years - in addition to being a member of the Deacons and Deaconesses Ministry,  she was a Sunday School and Bible School teacher, a Sunday School member, active in a District (now known as a Sheepfold), a member of the Missionary Circle, a member of the Senior Adult Ministry, a member of the exercise classes, and a Chair and Administrator of the Emergency Assistance Fund.  She was supportive via attendance, contributions, and participation in all activities and programs sponsored by the other ministries of the church.

She loved taking Geri-Fit classes with her husband as part of his military veteran’s benefit. She was very active up until the last couple of years and was always hoping to get back to the gym, to church, and to her sorority meetings. She served on many committees for the Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and was chapter president from 1986-88. She received numerous awards during her lifetime for her dedicated service to others.

Mrs. Smith loved to travel and took many trips following her husband’s retirement including Hawaii, the Bahamas, England, and Jamaica. She also loved to visit her brother Henry Livas, Sr. and his family in Hampton, Virginia.

When she turned 102 in March, her niece Nicole Livas, asked her what the secret was to living that long. She said, “Well, you trust God and I’ve been exercising since I was in my twenties and I try to eat the right things.”  She was featured on a WTVD broadcast for her 100th birthday that can be found on

Mrs. Smith is survived by her daughter Joyce Ann Smith Campbell, Durham, NC,  daughter-in-law, Anne O. Smith, Raleigh, NC, nephew Henry Livas, Jr. and family, Virginia Beach, VA, niece Claudina Young Wallace, New York, several great nieces and nephews, and close friends Rev. Dr. Adolphus Smith and wife Jessie, Creedmoor, NC.  

The family extends a special thank you to everyone who has been so supportive in helping care for Mrs. Smith and Joyce Ann over the years.  There is a such a long list, and we will never be able to repay your kindness.  We are most appreciative for all of you, especially Rev. Regina Mitchell, Alexine Miller, Beverly Reese, Linda Hubbard Curtis, Aleta Broussard, Gloria Doyle, Mary Thomas, goddaughters Gale Crews and LaHoma Smith Romocki, and all of her loving caretakers under the supervision of Ruth Ward and Gloria Yarborough.  We are also grateful for the support of the Duke HomeCare and Hospice team.

A livestream of the service is available on the Facebook page of Fisher Memorial Funeral Parlor. 

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary Hester (Livas) Smith, please visit our floral store.


August 9, 2020

12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Fisher Memorial Funeral Parlor
3137 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707

Funeral Service
August 10, 2020

11:00 AM
White Rock Baptist Church
3400 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707

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