Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith

July 25, 2020

 CHARLOTTE – Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith was born in St. Augustine, FL, on Sept 19, 1932 to Bessie Mae and Isaac Gibbs, one of six sisters and one brother. 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 for her RN at Macon 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 followed shortly after to join him. (Later, in her fifties, Shirley took extended learning courses and spent time at Georgia State University where she received her BS 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 IMB), of the SBC. After seminary preparation, Lewis and Shirley were appointed as medical missionaries to Hong Kong arriving with their three young children: Karen, Cathy and David. Their youngest daughter Deborah was born in Hong Kong a few years later.
Shirley and Lewis served as missionaries in Hong Kong until their retirement. They retired to Eatonton, GA, in 1993 and cared for Lewis’s mother, Ethel Smith, until her death in 2009. Shirley was an ordained deacon at First Baptist Church, Eatonton, GA. Lewis and Shirley moved to Aldersgate Retirement Community in 2012.
Shirley is known for her indefatigable level of energy. Often called ‘the energizer bunny’ by her family, she always had several projects in the works. In addition to caring for her four young children, Shirley spent several years studying the Cantonese language for 4 hours a day. She worked with Vietnamese refugees and she 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.
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. When she retired to the States, she educated herself on other forms of painting and continued to delight her family and friends with watercolors, acrylics and other artworks.
Shirley was also an amazing seamstress. In addition to teaching most of the missionary kids (MKs) how to sew over the years, “Aunt Shirley” made dresses and unique Halloween costumes for her children and many of the other MKs. She also made the beautiful flower girl dresses for her granddaughters, Rachel and Emily, so they could be “twins” at Karen’s wedding. Later, she turned her efforts to making “Sasy” dolls (named for her initials) to sell at the Eatonton hospital gift shop for charity.
Shirley loved to write. She wrote weekly letters from Hong Kong to her children throughout their years in college in the US. After she retired, Shirley interviewed Miss Ethel (Lewis’s mother) and wrote up her stories, especially about the Rockville School. She also reached out to World War II veterans so she could tell their stories in the local Eatonton paper. She started writing her own stories during her retirement although she had kept thorough travel logs of her trips into China. She compiled many of the stories about her life into a self-published book called “Life of Joy.” We are all so thankful for these records of her life and thoughts.
On July 25, 2020, Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith of Charlotte, NC, peacefully made her way from this world to her heavenly home. She leaves behind her husband of 66 years, Dr. Lewis R. Smith of Charlotte, NC; daughters Karen (Carlton) Moore, Cathy (David) Caviness, Deborah Smith, and daughter-in-law Marla Smith; grandchildren: Sara Smith, Rachel (Becky) Smith-Hunter, Emily (Robbie) Yancey, Stephen (Kylie) Caviness and great granddaughter: Lyla Yancey. Her son, Captain David Smith, passed away before her in 2011. She is also survived by two sisters and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Shirley Ann Gibbs Smith will be remembered for her strong faith and her full, loving, energetic, caring, creative, and generous approach to life. A live-stream service from Aldersgate will be held on Thursday, August 6th, at 2:00PM. Graveside service will be held at a later date in light of the pandemic. Link to service details to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to: The Aldersgate Guardian Angel Fund, Aldersgate UMRC, Inc., 3800 Shamrock Drive, Charlotte, NC 28215
Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at

Here are the links for the livestream 




                           Lewis & Shirley Smith, - 1954    


              Smith Family on their way back to Hong Kong - 1966


                                               Lewis & Shirley's 60th Anniversary - 2014


                                           Shirley Smith:  LIFE OF JOY!

Share your memories & condolences


  • Karen Pickler

    Please forgive the lateness of my condolence. May you know God's care and love in this time of grief.

  • Janet Swan

    Shirley was an inspiration to me and a wonderful friend . She taught me many things about joy in service to others. She and Lewis made a lasting impression on my life. In my first years in Hong Kong, several of us Journeyman would end up at the Smith house almost every other night, Shirley always made us feel welcomed and loved.

  • Donna K Kirby

    I served in Hong Kong with Lewis and Shirley and had a strong connection with them because of our Georgia roots. Shirley was always smiling and happy and very active. My sincere sympathy to the family. May you experience God's continue comfort and guidance in the coming days.

  • Fleta S Ney

    The first people my Mother, Bonnie Seymour, and I meet when we moved to Eatonton was Miss Ethel and Shirley. What a great introduction to town they were! They invited us to First Baptist Church and we joined. Mother and Shirley painted together in an art group at FBC and became close friends. I loved seeing the two of them together and hearing their life stories. Shirley will be missed by so, so many. May God give the family peace and comfort. You will be remembered in my prayers.

  • Bill Sharp

    My wife Jennie were passing through First Baptist Church, Eatonton and not speeking very kindly of a family situation.
    Shirley ask what was going on and after listening she stopped us and said lets pray about the problem, right here and now!
    After the prayer a burden was lifted from both Jennie and I.
    Shirley taught us "Where could I go but to the Lord".
    A great, faithful lady. She will be misded.
    God Bless.
    Bill & Jennie Sharp

  • Pam Lancaster

    All of us in Eatonton who knew and loved Miss Shirley are feeling that conflicting sense of loss and celebration for a live well lived. As a child here at FBC Eatonton, I always remember thinking how awesome it was that we had our very own real life missionaries! What a blessing that Miss Ethel kept us all connected, her mere presence the reminder of the important work going on outside our tiny sphere of the familiar. But somehow, in my child's mind, I never really thought of the hardships endured by both your parents and Miss Ethel. They all made it seem so easy. Now as my family travels some of the same paths, I miss your mama. I miss your grandmother. I think of them both so often - What I would give to be able to have long conversations with them! Of course, I realize now that their lives were not always easy. But truly they lived a life of joy, by accepting their calling - whether that be to go, or to stay behind. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of your family. I got to know Miss Shirley as my Sunday School teacher during her years in Eatonton, and she was truly one of the most wonderful people I have ever known. I am grateful for the example she put before me and thankful for the time she spent with us.
    Pam Key Lancaster

  • Donna Maibuecher

    I have great memories of Aunt Shirley being present and calm. She was a friend of my mom’s and capable. She let me stay in her cabin on Lantau Island, she made my prom dress and was joyful and classy. I am thankful for her long and full life.

  • Debbie Smith

    We pray for comfort for the whole family. I will not forget the timely way God provided for me when I got to Hong Kong; I'd been studying with US friends the book "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster. I discovered the ladies in Hong Kong were also studying it, led by Shirley Smith, and they were exactly in the same chapter where I left off previously. Yes, I believe Shirley lived a life of joy, and a teacher and learner as a great example to many! We send our condolences with good memories. Debbie Smith

  • Barbara Bradley

    Bob and I are so saddened to hear of Shirley's passing. We feel so blessed to have been a co-laborer with her in Hong Kong. It's difficult to bring a picture of her to mind in which she was not smiling. She was a beautiful, joyful person who radiated God's love. You and the. family are in our prayers during these difficult days.

  • Connie Hurd

    My husband, Mark, and I, knew Shirley at Hong Kong's Kowloon Baptist Church. She was always cheerful, kind and ready with a listening ear to give support and encouragement.

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