Obituaries detail

Marjorie R. Smelstor, Age: 75
Aug 23, 1946 - Oct 30, 2021

Marjorie R. Smelstor, 75, died Saturday morning, October 30, 2021, at the Kansas City Hospice House.  She simply slipped out of her body quietly—almost unnoticed.  That wasn’t what one might have expected; Marge was a presence.  You knew she was there. Not because she was loud, but, because she loved life and was passionate about so many things:  friendship, loyalty, creativity, a liberal education, responsibility, humor, travel, and of course, tennis.


She was born on August 23, 1946, in Norwood, Massachusetts to Leon and Marjorie Libis Smelstor.  Her family moved to Dayton, Ohio where she attended school.  Marge received her B.A. from the College of Mt. St. Joseph and her M.A. and Ph.D. in American Literature and Public Relations from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1975.


Marge then started a career that encompassed academe, health care, and foundation work.  She began at the University of Texas-San Antonio where she was in charge of developing new programs for the University.  It was the perfect job for a person who always thought there ought to be a way to make any idea work – especially if it meant breaking down the walls between disciplines. Surely there must be a way for a scientist, a historian, and a literature instructor to create a course; and they did.


This belief that creativity and innovation could help people think in new ways was the hallmark of her entire career as she moved through faculty and administrative positions at UTSA, Ball State University, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, University of Missouri – Kansas City, Truman Medical Centers, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.  She always used her own career as the perfect example that a liberal arts education did not limit one’s opportunities and could in fact expand them.


In spite of having published a wide range of articles, served on many boards, and lectured both nationally and internationally, it is Marge the friend who will be missed.  She was a natural raconteur who could describe an event with such humor and insight that one felt they had indeed been present.  Many times, the stories might rest on something she herself had done—especially since she was notorious for getting lost.  Friends can never forget her story of accidentally ending up on the active runway of Lackland AFB when she was on the way to give a speech at the Officers’ Club.


Since hearing of her death former students, colleagues, and friends have sent many comments:

             “…need not tell what an inspiration she was to us.” 

            “She was absolutely loyal to friends and colleagues.”

            “You always knew where you stood with Marge—positive, or negative, you knew.”


Marge put a high value on friendship.  She was a fantastic correspondent who kept in touch with friends from all over the world.  If you were her friend, she knew what you were interested in and you might soon find yourself the recipient of an envelope full of newspaper clippings, cartoons, and perhaps her own observations about the contents.  Marge loved books.  If you too were a reader, you might even be treated to Marge’s own Sizzlers and Fizzlers List—an evaluation of the best and worst books she read that year.  Marge’s good friend Carol puts it best when she paraphrases the line from Charlotte’s Web “She was a true friend and a fantastic correspondent.”


And that word “friend” is central to those she’s left behind.  She’s survived by many friends around the world, by the members of the 10151 Floating, Drinking, and Sometimes Swimming Club, by her partner Barb, and especially her Old English Sheepdog, Keswick.  She was preceded in death by her parents, her long-time companion Ann Thompson, and her great friend and mentor Gordon Lamb.


Marge always kept the following poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson on her desk.

            To laugh often and love much; to win the respect

            of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn

            the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends;

            to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self;

            to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or

            a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm

            and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have    lived … this is to have succeeded.


Those of us who love Marge and will miss her forever would say she succeeded magnificently.


There will be no services for Marge.  If you wish to honor her, please donate to:  HNC Living Foundation. Overland Park, KS; Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care, Kansas City, MO; the Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City, MO; or any of the arts organizations in your community.


HNC Living Foundation Nov 05 ,2021

Foundation ,Overland Park

Marjorie was a steadfast supporter of our mission and her personal empathy for the cancer patients we serve was invaluable to our organization. Her memory will live on with each patient served by our organization. She will greatly be missed as a thought leader, supporter, and great friend to the foundation.

Beverley Pitts Nov 08 ,2021

Friend ,Ishers ,Indiana

I was a colleague and friend during Marge’s years at Ball State. She was a true mentor during my first years as an administrator. We stayed in touch for many years, and I went on to a presidency, much because of her guidance and encouragement during those early years. I know my story is echoed by hundreds, but I just wanted her family and friends to know of another whose life was so affected by this wonderful person. I send my deepest sympathy to all who loved her. Beverley

Katherine and Bruce Rhoades Nov 09 ,2021

friend ,Menomonie ,Wisconsin

We savor memories of lively conversations with Marge and will always treasure her intellectual insights, political savvy, and marvelous sense of humor.

Carolyn Warmbold Nov 12 ,2021

Friend ,Clearwater ,Florida

I knew Marge at UT San Antonio and though I was then an inexperienced assistant in the English Department, she valued my ideas about teaching. I will always be grateful that when my husband died, Marge came to the house and helped out. She would go through the good and the bad with you. When I left San Antonio, she still sent a birthday card every year. She did indeed value friends. We were going to have lunch when she visited Florida in early 2020, but the pandemic intervened. I am so sorry now that we missed the chance to catch up. My love to all who cherished her.