Marie Pinto Smith
May 30, 1929 – June 20, 2021
Devoted Teacher and Beach Lover
On the eve of the Great Depression in the oldest house in Newport, RI, Marie Pinto Smith was born to the late Michael and Minnie (Fiero) Pinto. It was May 30, 1929.
Her mother’s parents, who emigrated from southern Italy and settled with their young family on the corner of Touro and Spring Streets, lifted the 17th century building and opened a provisions store and popular soda fountain on the new ground floor. In this shop, Marie’s parents fell in love; they married, and moved into a top floor apartment where Marie was born in a room overlooking Spring Street.
They spoke only Italian at Sunday dinners with the extended family that followed Marie’s grandmother from the old country, and though she claimed to understand everything, Marie only retained the spicy words and the few that allowed her to speak with her parents in secret. Her fondest memories of childhood were sitting with her grandfather, Carlo, while he smoked his pipe and, during prohibition, made barrels of wine in the basement.
Marie and her parents moved to Kay Street just before the 1938 hurricane; her brother Michael was born that year. In this new neighborhood she made lifelong friends. When World War Two began she ran all the way from Betty O’Connell’s house down Friendship Street in a panic over what might happen next. A generation was swept off in the years that followed but Marie graduated safely from Rogers High School in 1946.
She met her future husband, Michael James Smith, at the Rhode Island College of Education, where she was a cheerleader and he was a basketball player seven years her senior. “Jimmy,” was also from Newport, a fifth-warder, just returned from the army’s Pacific Theater. Their parents were skeptical of the relationship between an Irish immigrant and a fiery, educated Italian girl. The couple married in 1952 and moved to Middletown, where they lived the rest of their lives.
Marie and Jimmy shared a devotion to teaching and spoke of it constantly. Marie taught at Newport’s Potter School before embarking on a long career in Middletown, where she was handpicked to head the innovative Title One program in the little antique building beside Oliphant School.
They raised two children, Michael James, Jr. and Gary, with a firm hand and a lot of love. Inspired by their immigrant background and a quiet respect for country, Marie and Jimmy planned family vacations around the sites of the American Revolution. Enthralled with Newport’s storied past, Marie was a lifelong member of Redwood Library and the Preservation Society. Like her father before her, she spent years working with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, delivered Meals On Wheels, and was a Eucharistic minister, trekking through hospitals and nursing homes to visit the sick and shut-ins.
Marie also liked to relax, and she occupied every summer day at Third Beach in a low chair talking with the ladies. Even in December they met by the water for a glass of wine while watching seagulls in the winter wind. The beach, family, charity, and teaching were the cornerstones of her life.
In 1990, after 33 years, she retired from education and travelled the world with her husband and friends, bringing back thousands of photos of European capitals, Hawaiian beaches, and calving glaciers. She had everything she wanted: career, home, family, and travel and considered herself a lucky woman. In her last years Marie moved to Blenheim-Newport and was reunited with many of her childhood friends. After vowing to “die with her boots on” she passed away swiftly on June 20, 2021, at the age of 92.
Marie is survived by her son, Gary Smith; her brother, Michael S. Pinto; her sister-in-law, Liz Pinto; their children, Elizabeth, Debra, and Michael Pinto, Jr.; her cousin, Carolyn Magnus; her late husband’s extensive family of Smiths, Sullivans, and Segersons; and by a world of students, now adults, whom she loved very much. She is preceded in death by her husband, Michael J. Smith, and by her son, Michael J. Smith, Jr.
Funeral services will be held at St. Joseph’s Church on Broadway on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, at 10:00 am.
Burial will follow at St. Columba cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, https://ssvpusa.org/