2009-09-24 / Obituaries

Catharine Carton Smith, 97

Catharine Carton Smith of Bloomfield,

Conn., artist

and art collector, family matriarch and a life-long summer resident of Jamestown, died Sept. 18. She was 97.

The daughter of Alfred T. and Mildred Wells Carton of Lake Forest, Ill., Mrs. Smith was born on Dec. 14, 1911, in Chicago. She received her formal education at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Miss Schoff’s School in Paris and Smith College in Northampton, Mass. (class of 1934).

She married Paul P. Swett Jr. of Bloomfield, Conn. in 1933. They and their three sons lived in West Hartford, Conn. and Washington, DC before moving to Baltimore, Md. in 1946. President of the Maryland Life Insurance Co., Mr. Swett died in 1980.

In 1983, she married Olcott D. Smith, chairman of the board of the Aetna Life and Casualty Co., and moved to Farmington, Conn. He died in 2000. She moved in 2008 to the Duncaster Lifecare Community in Bloomfield.

From age 14 on, she summered at Full House, her family’s home on Wolcott Avenue.

Mrs. Smith painted watercolors of sea and countryside, boats, buildings and rural farms with clean lines, warm colors and engaging perspective. She collected late 19th and early 20th century American landscapes and enthusiastically supported museums of art wherever she lived.

A descendent of Thomas Wells, a governor of the Colony of Connecticut, and Deacon Samuel Chapin, a founder of Springfield, Mass., Mrs. Smith took pride in her ancestry, treasured their mementos and visited their burial sites in England and Ireland.

Mrs. Smith was giving and gracious, relished her friends, but most of all, she cherished her family (more than 100 members at her death). A natural hostess and household manager, she presided over rooms full of relations of all ages at her annual Thanksgiving gatherings.

While not a competitive athlete, Mrs. Smith skied and rode horseback and, well into ‘80s, played golf and tennis. She also loved sailing.

First on her father’s sloops “Hyepus,” “Suwarro” and “Kit,” then on her own sloop “Teal,” she sailed on Narragansett Bay for some of most every summer for more than 80 years. She last “got on the water,” as she phrased it, in July of this year aboard Don Miller’s “Quintessence.”

She is the grandmother of Hannah Swett, collegiate All-American sailor and a 2003 Yachtswoman of the Year.

Mrs. Smith held membership in clubs and organizations throughout her life, including the Conanicut Yacht Club, the Dumplings Association, Garden Club of America and the Cosmopolitan Club in New York City.

Distinguished by her impeccable dress and manners, Mrs. Smith looked for the best in others and tried always to be at her best. “You are dead an awfully long time,” she once remarked by way of explaining her goal of avoiding stress and seeking serenity. So she lived each day for nearly a century.

Survivors include her brother, Dr. Robert W. Carton of Winnetka, Ill., (her other brother, Laurence A. Carton, died in 2004); sisters-in-law, Jean Keating Carton of Winnetka and Ann Schmidt Carton of Lake Forest, Ill.; sons, Steven C. Swett of Norwich, Vt. and Thomas C. Swett of Unionville, Pa. (her son, Bradford N. Swett, died in 2005); daughtersin law, Shiela Chanler Swett of Norwich, Vt., Holly McAllister Swett of New York City and Carolyn Gordy Swett of Unionville; step-children, Damon B. Smith of Old Lyme, Conn., Wendy M. Brainerd of Old Lyme, Conn., Tyler Smith of Hartford, Conn. and O. Whitman Smith of Charlotte, Vt. and their spouses; eight grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, 12 step-grandchildren, 15 step-great grandchildren and dozens of nieces and nephews.

She will be buried at Riverside Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, Conn. A memorial service will be held at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Old St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Bloomfield, Conn.

Gifts in her memory can be made to the Baltimore Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church of Jamestown.

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