In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith, 88

Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith, 1932-2020

Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among East Asian Affinity Peoples in Hong Kong, died July 25, 2020. She was 88.

Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith was born in St. Augustine, Florida, on Sept 19, 1932, to the late Bessie Mae and Isaac Gibbs. Early in life Shirley gave her life to Jesus Christ and subsequently made a commitment to God that she would become a nurse and a missionary. While studying at Macon (Georgia) Hospital School of Nursing in 1953, she met Dr. Lewis Ruil Smith and they married in 1954.

Lewis was assigned to Tripoli, Libya, by the U. S. Air Force that year and Shirley joined him there. Later, in her 50s, Shirley took extended learning courses and spent time at Georgia State University, where she received the Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Faithful to their individual calls to missions, Lewis and Shirley were commissioned in 1959 to serve as missionaries by the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board).

Shirley and Lewis served 34 years in Hong Kong retiring to Eatonton, Georgia, in 1993, where they cared for Lewis’s mother, Ethel Smith, until her death in 2009. Shirley was a deacon at First Baptist Church, Eatonton. Lewis and Shirley moved to Aldersgate Retirement Community, Charlotte North Carolina, in 2012.

While in Hong Kong, in addition to caring for her four young children, Shirley spent several years studying the Cantonese language for four hours a day. She worked with Vietnamese refugees and led women’s Bible Studies, often with one of the other women missionaries. After their children moved away for college, Shirley returned to being a nurse in the office where Lewis worked. She and Lewis were invited to give training in hospitals in China at a time when travel was still very limited for Westerners.

According to the family, Shirley loved art and became proficient in Chinese painting. Her scrolls hang in her family’s homes but also were displayed in schools and other public arenas. After she retired, she educated herself on other forms of painting such as watercolor and acrylic.

The family said she taught most of the missionary kids (MKs) how to sew over the years and made dresses and unique Halloween costumes for her children and many of the other MKs. Later, she made “Sasy” dolls, named for her initials, to sell at the Eatonton hospital gift shop for charity.

After she retired, Shirley interviewed Lewis’s mother and wrote up her stories. She also reached out to World War II veterans so she could tell their stories in the local Eatonton paper. She kept thorough travel logs of her trips into China and wrote her own stories during retirement. She compiled many of the stories into a self-published book called Life of Joy.

Smith is survived by her husband of 66 years, Dr. Lewis R. Smith of Charlotte, North Carolina; daughters Karen Moore (Carlton), Cathy Caviness (David) and Deborah Smith; daughter-in-law Marla Smith; four grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. Her son, Captain David Smith, passed away before her in 2011. She is also survived by two sisters.

A live-stream service was held on Thursday, August 6, from Aldersgate. A graveside service was to be held later.

Read an obituary and view a video of the service here.