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Smail, Laura Woolsey Lord

Smail, Laura Woolsey Lord

CHARLOTTE, N.C.- Laura Smail, age 93, died on May 3, 2016, at the Aldersgate Retirement Community in the company of family and friends. She was born in Lynn, Mass., on Oct. 31, 1922, grew up in nearby Newton, and went to Smith College, where she majored in History and studied piano.

After college, she worked for the Ford Foundation, which included a stint in Southeast Asia between 1955 and 1956. She received her M.A. degree in Southeast Asian studies at Cornell University in 1958. At Cornell, she met a fellow student, John Richard Wharton Smail (deceased, 2002), and they married in Ithaca, N.Y., on Aug. 2, 1958. Following a two-year stay in Indonesia, the family moved to Madison, where, in 1962, Laura's husband took a position as a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to raising her children, Laura worked as an editor at the University of Wisconsin Press and later at the UW Oral History Project. She took up painting during the family's year-long visit to Canberra, Australia (1971-72), and her pastels, many of them featuring rural Wisconsin scenes, received several awards. She lived in Madison until 2010, when she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Laura is survived by her sons, John of Charlotte, N.C., and Daniel of Lexington, Mass.; their spouses, Tina Wright and Kathleen Smail; and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to charities that were important to her, including the ACLU, Doctors without Borders, and Planned Parenthood. The family hopes to gather with her friends in Madison this summer for an informal memorial service. No date has been set; please write to

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