On Thursday, September 15, 2022, Dianne Kershaw Smith, beloved mother and friend, passed away in Gilbert, Arizona at the age of eighty-three. The middle daughter of three girls, Dianne entered the world on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. Born and raised in Van Nuys, California, Dianne spent her childhood exploring the neighborhood, enjoying sports, and was designated the “tomboy” of the family. She loved assisting her father, Frank, with his carpentry and fix-it projects around the house. There were a few early years in St. George, Utah, where she started kindergarten. It was during the first day of kindergarten when the teacher called roll and asked for “Elva Kershaw.” The teacher repeated the name again. Dianne finally answered, “She’s home vacuuming!” Dianne didn’t know she and her mother shared the same first name, at least on the school roster. Dianne was blessed to be the middle of the Kershaw sisters, with Gloria as the eldest and Judy as youngest. She adored her sisters, and their time together was filled with laughter, games, and wonderful stories.
In 1957, Dianne attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She was academically inclined and excelled at school. She was active in the social life of the 1950s and attended dances, was a part of a sorority, and lived in a house with 20 other coeds. After just a year at school, Dianne married Mel Smith, in the Los Angeles, California LDS Temple on September 5, 1958. Their early married life was filled with adventures in Mar Vista, Culver City, and two years in Modesto, but they established their life and family roots in a sleepy suburb of Simi Valley, California (that was close enough to the ocean for Mel). They ended up in the Vera Cruz house where they raised their six kids: Kevin, Dan, Mitch, Melanie, Kimberly, and Heather. Dianne made her house a home and it was the perfect home for a large, lively family. Running up and sliding down the backyard hill, endless games of cops and robbers, and late summer days with the neighborhood friends were regular events. A small wooden sign stating, “The Smith’s” hung over the front door and all were welcomed. Mel and Dianne loved children and often, in addition to their brood of six, there were beloved foster children, family members, and friends filling the home. They loved them all.
Dianne rarely sat still and did everything with full intent. She loved to read and there was always a crossword or Reader’s Digest in her Mary Poppins’ purse, just in case she had a spare minute. She was an excellent hostess and every party and gathering at Dianne’s would include food-filled tables - no one ever left hungry! She was the same in her church service. She served with all she had and was diligent in every task given to her. Dianne had a remarkable ability to balance multiple tasks through planning, as well as her ability to be flexible. If she saw something that needed to be done, she quickly devised a plan and immediately put it in action. Though her life was filled with hardship, she did not waste time feeling sorry for herself. Rather, she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and went to work. Even amidst her own trials, she would see and respond to the needs of others. In addition, she was ever grateful for the service others provided to her family.
Dianne spent time, effort, and love in service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was always active in the Relief Society and served as stake Relief Society president. She fulfilled every calling, served many sisters, and did everything she could to serve the church community. She was a beloved seminary teacher to many in Simi. Each weekday morning, before dawn, she was at the church building to teach gospel principles to yawning youth. She diligently taught for over 20 years. Her enthusiastic spirit was evident. She loved the gospel and her students, and, in turn, her students loved her.
When her husband was diagnosed with ALS, Dianne, ever the pragmatist, enrolled at California Lutheran University and started working at the Moorpark College Preschool Laboratory. At 46, she was widowed. With six children ranging in age from seven through their early twenties, it wasn’t easy, but she did what Dianne always did: pressed forward, doubting nothing and working extremely hard. A few years later, she graduated Summa Cum Laude in Early Childhood Education from California Lutheran University. She then started teaching Elementary School (Mountain View, then Berylwood), as well as Early Childhood college courses.
Of the many things she accomplished in her life, Dianne likely had the biggest influence on others in the capacity of educator. Over the years, she taught preschool through adult ages. She advocated for all her students and especially the multi-lingual learners. Dianne loved teaching and she was amazing at her craft. Her elementary and preschool classrooms revolved around learning through play, rich literature, and lots of music. Music was important and her family knew Dianne might sing “Old Dobbin,” “Do a Dance,” or “You are My Sunshine” at any time. She used her skills to teach Early Childhood courses at Moorpark College and taught for the BYU-Pathway program during her mission to New Jersey. As an educator, she influenced countless people of all ages. As a person who incorporated service into her life, she positively impacted countless more.
After retirement, Dianne moved to South Jordan, Utah, where she spent 13 years serving in various capacities within her community. During this time, she served two full-time volunteer LDS missions: the first to Corpus Christi, Texas, 2006-2007 (Spanish-Speaking), and the second to Morristown, New Jersey, 2011-2013. Her final three years were spent in Gilbert, Arizona, near two of her daughters.
In her latest years, as her memory declined, Dianne was often searching for “home.” While those left behind feel a tremendous loss, there is much comfort in knowing she has returned to her true home in Heaven, wrapped in the arms of her Savior and together again with her husband, parents, and so many loved ones.
Family was everything to Dianne. She loved her children and grandchildren and wanted them to be happy. She leaves behind a legacy of love and laughter. She was the best wife, mother, and Grammy.
Dianne is preceded in death by her husband, Melvin Isaac Smith, Jr. She is survived by her two sisters, Gloria (Bill) Hunter and Judy Nance; six children, Kevin (Joy) Smith, Daniel (Kim) Smith, Mitchell Smith, Melanie (David) Sanders, Kimberly Stebbins, and Heather (Ryan) Rainey; as well as 19 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren (with one more on the way).
A memorial service, in honor of Dianne, will be held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 480 Sinaloa Rd, Simi Valley, CA 93065 on Thursday, September 29, at 11:30 am. As was always Dianne’s philosophy, all are welcome!