Maylou Alger Smith learned to drive her new ranch tractor on a warm, sunny morning in early August 2022. She checked some items off her to-do list, and by mid-afternoon she was ready for her afternoon nap. She stretched out on the couch with a few comfy pillows, a blanket, and a good novel. After reading for a while, she drifted off to sleep and passed peacefully from this life.
Maylou was born 85 years ago at Mt Shasta. She spent her childhood years in Scott Valley, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse in Greenview through the eighth grade. She went to Etna High for three months, then moved with her family to Davis, where she graduated from Davis High.
While attending high school, Maylou worked as a car-hop at the Davis Giant Orange, where a frequent customer was Jim Smith. They dated for two years before being married at the First United Methodist Church in Reno.
Jim and Maylou began their married life in Roseville. Maylou graduated from Heald Business College in Sacramento and was headed for a job at the State Capitol, but …. life had other plans. A year after their wedding, the couple became a family when their daughter, Coral, arrived. A job transfer for Jim moved the family to Mt. Shasta, where daughter, Kelley, was born. More job transfers sent the family to Davis, then to Truckee. In a February blizzard, their son, Ken, arrived and made the family complete.
Maylou enjoyed being outdoors in the sunshine, especially when she was in water. Her love of swimming was reinforced by the many Esther Williams movies she watched as a young girl. When Maylou finally got her first swimming lessons in the summer of eighth grade, she thought it was the most wonderful thing that had happened in her whole life.
Maylou was honored to be a Certified Water Safety Instructor for the American Red Cross for 35 years, and she worked or volunteered as a Certified Lifeguard or Swimming Instructor wherever she could … Donner Lake, Truckee, Squaw Valley, Tahoe, Loyalton, Portola. She taught indoors and outdoors, in all kinds of weather … sunshine, rain, wind, and even snow, but she drew the line if thunder or lightning was even a remote possibility.
Swimming was her favorite activity, but she also helped form the Women’s Softball League in Truckee and played regularly on a team. She served as Co-Chairperson and Secretary of the Truckee Swimming Pool Committee, which succeeded in getting Truckee’s first community swimming pool built. Maylou enjoyed hiking, fishing, bowling, biking, camping, boating, waterskiing, baton-twirling, gardening (she believed that one was “Closer to God’s heart in the garden than anyplace else on earth”), snowmobiling, and horseback riding. She was “Mom” to several foster children; was a Girl Scout Leader; President of Truckee Cooperative Nursery School; Secretary and Lifeguard with the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District; active in the Truckee Fire-ettes, Truckee PTA, Truckee Little League, and was a member of the Truckee-Donner Horsemen.
In 1972, Jim and Maylou sold the home they built in Truckee and moved to a ranch in Sierra Valley. Maylou called their beloved Diamond S ranch “The Land of God’s Delight,” and it was their home for the next 50 years. They raised an assortment of kids, crops, and animals. Ranch chores kept Maylou busy, but she still found time for swimming, gardening (always including zucchini, which she loved!), hiking, biking, horseback riding, ATV-ing, snowmobiling, and Nordic skiing. She assisted with animal births on the ranch, and with the midwife births of most of their grandchildren.
She also contributed to her new community. Maylou was Manager, Lifeguard, and Swimming Instructor at the Loyalton Pool. She taught swimming at the Portola Pool; served as President of Eastern Plumas Health Care Auxiliary, Plumas-Sierra Cattlewomen, and Plumas County Republican Women; was Secretary of Eastern Plumas County Chamber of Commerce, and Plumas County NRA; served as Chairperson for the 5th Annual Feather River Railroad Days, and the Swim-A-Thon at the Loyalton Pool; she was involved in the Crisis Pregnancy Center, and was active in Farm Bureau. Maylou was a member of the California Republican Party, the Feather River Rail Society, and Friends of the Library. She believed in standing up for what’s right, and was a strong advocate for Private Property Rights. She volunteered at Nifty Thrifty, and was an enthusiastic member of the Mohawk Valley Line Dancers.
Maylou was a teacher who freely shared the skills and wisdom she learned from life, yet she was also a student. She loved to read. Maylou religiously studied the Bible, and she also read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books. She took classes in creative writing, drawing, painting, computers, and Spanish. Maylou enjoyed decorating, crafting, quilting, collecting, and organizing. She sewed clothes, re-upholstered tractor seats, and created crazy quilts for all 20 of her grand- and great-grandchildren. She delighted in hunting for treasures at antique and thrift shops.
The kitchen wasn’t her favorite place, yet she spent a lot of time in its welcoming red and white expanse: canning; juicing; mixing; cooking; creating; grinding grains; baking and decorating cakes for family weddings; turning the bounty of zucchini into breads, fritters, pancakes, and many other creations. She excelled at keeping her active family healthy and well-fed. Maylou had a fondness for prime rib, cheesecake, cream puffs, rum balls, and chocolate eclairs, and she put as much care into cooking these and other goodies as she did with most ventures in her life. She loved taking the time to make every occasion special… “Putting the Frosting on the Cake,” as she liked to say.
She appreciated most types of music, but country (particularly Tammy Wynette) was her favorite. She would frequently sing, sometimes play her guitar, and often dance to the song, whether she was in her kitchen or out with friends.
When Maylou wasn’t participating in sports and events, she and Jim were often found attending those of their kids, grand- and great-grandkids … everything from hula and show choir performances to soccer and science fairs. Maylou enjoyed going to the movies, museums, plays, and other social events. She liked watching Hallmark movies on TV, as well as Antiques Roadshow, cooking shows, home renovation shows, and Kings basketball games (she was a very animated Armchair Coach for the team).
Maylou delighted in adorning her home and herself with all things western or feminine. She always dressed for the occasion, frequently wearing one of her favorite colors, red — a color as vibrant and outgoing as she was. She liked turquoise and silver jewelry, flowers, teddy bears, dolls, and antiques of all kinds.
Maylou explored many US states, from Alaska to Florida and Hawaii to Washington DC. She visited Mexico, and cruised around the Mediterranean. Her heart, however, was on the ranch, and she often said, “There’s no place like home!”
A “Social Butterfly,” Maylou was generous with her cheerful smile, warm hugs, and infectious joy for life. She was genuine, caring, and quick to laugh.
She was special and unique, and she had a way of making people she was with feel the same way.
One of her guiding principles was “Whatsoever you do, do it with all your might” and she applied this to everything in life. Maylou put her heart and soul into being the best human she could be.
She said, “Life has been quite an adventure. It has been very challenging and educational. I thank God for helping and guiding me through it all. It’s been a fun ride!” Her enthusiasm for life was ongoing, and “Mermaid” (her nickname) was still joyfully swimming, dancing, and getting together with friends just days before her final nap.
Maylou is survived by her children Coral, Kelley (Corbett), and Ken (Kathy); grandchildren Michelle (Calen), Larry (Renee), Danai, Christopher (Charmaine), Kasey, Jessica (Jose Luiz), and Melony (Tyler); great-grandchildren Claire, Allyson, Elijah, Sierra, Hannah, Everett, Jacob, Paisley, Gavin, Hailey, Gracie, Rylie, and Abbie; brother, Perry (Barbara), and a large circle of family and friends.
She was predeceased (Nov 2021) by Jim, her husband of 65 years; by her father Addison, mother Elsie, brother Lowell, and many other loved ones.
Maylou was laid to rest in Sharkey Cemetery, overlooking beautiful Sierra Valley. At her request, no public services were, or will be, held.
Happy Trails to a beautiful, strong, inspiring, fun-loving woman. She will be greatly missed — however, her spirit and light will continue to shine in the hearts of all who loved her.