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Leila May Smith Armstrong

Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA
Death 23 Dec 1992 (aged 97)
Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, California, USA
Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Wee Kirk Churchyard, Lot: 2006, Space: 2
Memorial ID 72581577 · View Source
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Even at the age of ninety-five, Leila May Armstrong wasn't satisfied to sit in a rocking chair. She preferred parasailing.

''She always liked views, and it was completely safe, so she said OK and away we went,'' recalled her son, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Weaver Armstrong of Seal Beach.

They took off from the deck platform of a speedboat and soared hundreds of feet in the air above the port of Long Beach. And no, she wasn't nervous.

''Why did we have to come down so soon?'' she asked when they landed.

After suffering a stroke in November, Leila died Wednesday at her daughter's home in Watsonville. She was ninety-seven.

Leila, widow of late Huntington Park Police Chief Merritt H. Armstrong, was born in Indianapolis on January 19, 1895. Her grandfather, Dr. Samuel Weaver, was a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War. Her father, Wirt Smith, was a lawyer, and her mother, Carrie Weaver Smith, was one of the first women to graduate from DePauw University in Indiana.

''The Smith family came to California by train via San Francisco days after the 1906 San Francisco quake,'' said Robert, a judge in Norwalk. ''Her first view of California was waking up in the Pullman car and looking out the window at the earthquake devastation.''

The family settled in Los Angeles, where Leila graduated from Manual Arts High School in 1913. Among her classmates were California Gov. Goodwin Knight and Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. She continued her education at Los Angeles Normal, the predecessor of UCLA, and after earning her teaching credential, she taught kindergarten in Glendale.

During World War I, Leila went to Washington, DC to work in the Treasury Department, where she met her husband.

''They courted in Washington but found that, by coincidence, their parents lived a few blocks from each other in Los Angeles,'' her son said. ''They were married in Los Angeles at her parents' home in 1920 and celebrated their sixty-sixth wedding anniversary just three months before Merritt's death in December of 1986.''

The couple raised their three children in Huntington Park, where Merritt joined the Police Department as a motorcycle officer in 1934 and retired as chief in 1957.

After her children left home, Leila returned to teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District and continued to substitute until her husband's retirement.

''In her 60s, she took up painting and left a legacy of over 100 canvases of seascapes, beach scenes, landscapes, and desert views,'' Robert said.

Leila, who instilled in her children a love of literature, was an avid reader and steady patron of the local library. A gifted letter writer, she corresponded with friends and relatives throughout her long life.

''She was very outgoing, very interested in people,'' her son said.

And very active, even at the age of ninety-seven. Earlier this year, she flew from her daughter's home to visit her sons.

In addition to Robert and his wife, Eleanor, Leila is survived by son Merritt Harold Armstrong and his wife, Arline, of Laguna Beach, and her daughter, Patricia Ann Mitchell, and her husband, Hal, former head football coach at Brigham Young University. She is also survived by sixteen grandchildren and forty-one great-grandchildren.

Funeral Services are set for 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday in the Church of the Flowers, Forest Lawn, 1712 South Glendale Avenue. She will be laid to rest next to her husband.
Published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on December 26, 1992.

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  • Created by: Ryan D. Curtis
  • Added: 3 Jul 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 72581577
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Leila May Smith Armstrong (19 Jan 1895–23 Dec 1992), Find A Grave Memorial no. 72581577, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Ryan D. Curtis (contributor 46858513) .