Services for longtime Belen resident Muriel King Smith, who died June 5, will be held at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Belen Saturday, Aug. 10, at 1 p.m.
In her life, Smith was everything, including a mother, teacher, reporter, musician and an active member of the community and church. She was born in Minneapolis, Minn., and received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from the University of Minnesota.
She did post-graduate work there and at the University of New Mexico. According to her family, Smith loved New Mexico. She decided to move here after visiting on an archaeological dig during college. She moved to Belen in 1938, where she would remain throughout her life.
Smith was employed by the Minneapolis Star, the Santa Fe Railroad and the Belen Public Schools. In the ’40s she was a traveling elementary-school teacher and later taught language arts and journalism at both Belen junior and senior high schools. She was also a staff reporter and Women’s editor for the News-Bulletin from 1952 to 1962.
As described by her friend and old college roommate Lillian Michaels, Smith was a “dyed-in the wool Republican.” Extremely active in politics, Smith was secretary of the Young Republicans in Minne-apolis, a chairwoman of the Valencia County Republicans and a finance chairman of the New Mexico Federation of Republican Women. In 1966, Smith ran for state representative but was defeated by her friend Boni Tabet.
According to Michaels, Smith was a “pillar in the small town of Belen. Muriel was a leader — one of the greatest in Belen.”
In addition to her political involvement, Smith served on the Girl Scout Council, was a Brownie and Scout leader as well as a Cub Scout Den mother. She was a secretary of the Belen Parent-Teacher Association and public relations chairman in Pilot Club International.
Smith was also on the board of directors of the Belen Community Center, the Belen Youth Council, the Governor’s Council on Industry and Education and the New Mexico Youth Conference.
She was a member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, where she sang in the choir and played organ. She was also a member of Eastern Star, Delta Delta Delta Sorority, Tri Psi Sorority and was president of the American Association of University Women.
Smith was described as an intelligent woman by Michaels, her friend Ruth Campbell and her family. She spoke several foreign languages, mainly French, German and Italian. She learned them through her singing. Smith wanted to sing with the Metropolitan Opera but came down with scarlet fever just before her audition, her family said.
However, Smith utilized her language skill in her many travels around the world. Friends and family said that she loved to travel. Smith took voyages across Europe, Canada, Alaska and went on several cruises.
Smith was very family-oriented. She raised several children and her granddaughter, Lisa Ekis Cavence. Smith’s daughter, Susan Ekis, said Smith was her best friend.
“She had a wonderful sense of humor and she was the most generous person,” Ekis said. Ekis and Cavence said Smith was great at giving advice.
“She managed the family — who’s going to tell us what to do now?” Cavence asked.
Smith also had a heart for animals. A running joke with her family and friends came from when Smith won a pig from a church fair, and, instead of slaughtering it, named it Henrietta and kept it as a pet in the back yard.
Ekis said she remembered the family kept a cow in the back yard for a while, as well as a homeless horse. Ekis said, on one occasion, the horse found its way into the house, but Smith didn’t mind too much. Ekis said Smith would always pick up stray dogs, cats and rabbits that she would find.
“She was so interested in everything and everybody,” Campbell said, “and she was very well-educated; we could talk about most any subject.”
Michaels said Smith was “a very smart girl, an excellent student and a wonderful friend.”
Michaels and Smith talked every day, except during World War II. “We were just like sisters,” she said.
Smith was preceded in death by her parents, Rupert and Olga King; her husband, Sidney J. Smith; and her granddaughter, Mary Elaine Byers.
She is survived by her sister, Bernice King Fields of Los Angeles; her children, Rupert K. Byers and his wife, Rae, of Albuquerque, Hugh Byers and his wife, Norma Reston, Virginia and Susan Ekis of the family home; her grandchildren, Karen Byers Blackwell and husband, Eric, of Los Angeles, Richard Byers of Albuquerque, Sybil Byers Fetter and husband, Ron, of Belmont, Mass., Michael Byers of Albuquerque, Lisa Ekis Cavence and husband, Danny, of Belen, Pamela Byers Donahue and husband, Kent, of Danville, Calif., and Warren and Allison Byers of Reston, Va.; her great-grandchildren, Cameron and Jordan Cavence of Belen, Garrett and Avery Donahue of Danville, Calif., and Cameron Fetter of Belmont, Mass.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the local chapter of the American Association of University Women for a scholarship in her name to be awarded each year to a Belen High School senior in language arts. Send memorials to AAUW, 1107 Calle del Valle, Belen 87002.