Melissa Hill Montague Smith passed away surrounded in love by her husband Peter, her children Andrea Miller (Arnold), Malcolm Smith (Jennifer), and Melissa Ann Ehrenreich (Jeremy) on April 12th in George Washington University Hospital. She leaves a legacy of seven grandchildren and joins her beloved Patterdale Terrier mix, Lettie, who preceded her in death by a matter of weeks. In 2015, she received the gift of life from a kidney donor, which allowed her family and friends to share eight more years of precious life with her, countless family meals, her “something-to-open” gifts, and the blooming of wildflowers that never escaped her careful attention. Our family is grateful to this anonymous donor for this extra time we received to know and be surrounded in her love.
Born on April 20, 1945, in Richmond, VA to Charles Delevan Montague and Ida Hill Montague, Melissa was a dedicated sister to her older brother, Charles Delevan Montague , and younger brother, Peter Claybrook Montague, and was known to childhood family and friends as Missie. The family relocated to Atlanta, GA, which is where her mother and father are interred. She attended high school at the now St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School and graduated in 1967 from Hollins College where she made fast and long-lasting friendships with many classmates. While on a Hollins-sponsored year-long trip abroad to Europe, Melissa studied and lived in France with her host family, which is where she began her love for French cooking and a gourmand’s taste for excellent cuisine.
She met Peter at a card table soirée in Alexandria, VA. He was a thin doctoral student at Georgetown University who had recently found his way to American soil from his home country of England. She quickly realized he was subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches and began to feed him. In 1969, after nine months of dating, they were married at Pohick Church in Virginia with a reception afterward at Gadsby’s Tavern, which was said to have been frequented by George Washington.
They would eventually settle in Takoma Park, MD, which would become their family home and her wild garden for 47 years. They would enjoy more than half a century of memorable meals together, whether dressed in vintage glamor with their Takoma Park Valley View neighborhood crew, on picnic blankets under the shaded trees of their deck in Cumberland, MD at their family camping ground, or on their pier and porch overlooking Whays Creek in the home they built together in Reedville, VA.
Melissa was a technical editor at United States Pharmacopeia for 22 years until her retirement. She and Peter traveled well and frequently on numerous adventures, often aquatic, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean to the Pacific.
She was magical with her hands – in her gardens and those she volunteered at as a Master Gardener, her kitchen, or with a needle and thread. She made countless baby quilts and her fondest wish is that they were wrapped around the babies she gave them to. She loved to thrift and especially (and quietly) outplay her card partners in Gin Rummy and Hearts, which she did until the very end. She believed in candles lit for dinner, in eating well, homemade birthday cards and Christmas letters, and deep belly laughs that ended with a contented sigh. Her sweet and endearing smile was ever-present, remarked upon by everyone she met, including dozens of physicians during the last and toughest weeks of her life. She appreciated the beauty of nature and used her naturalist’s eye to tend and nurture native flora wherever she could. She loved her grandchildren and how they completed her family, celebrating their boundless enthusiasm, unique gifts, and bright promise. She leaves behind a legacy in each of them – Benjamin, Angelina, Charles, Lucy, Grace, Oliver, and Maddie.
She will be missed dearly.