Teresita Smith
Teresita Smith
Teresita Smith
Teresita Smith
Teresita Smith

Obituary of Teresita Smith


It is an honor and privilege to introduce you to a very special lady I call Mama.

Teresita dela Peña Tan Smith began her journey here on Earth on November 2, 1942 in Carigara, Leyte, Philippines. She was the eldest of 9 siblings born to Ambrocio Tan and Luciana dela Peña.

On March 22, 2021 after 28,630 days of a life well-lived and traveled, Mom set out for a new adventure.

There are so many beautiful memories to share about this bright soul but I don’t know where to begin. Which order is important or if it matters at all? Let me start with the first thing that comes to mind and let her Spirit guide me along the way.

Heaven here on earth for Mama was in the presence of family and friends - old and new, in a vibrant kitchen where laughter, stories, good food and good vibes flowed in abundance. She loved to feel connected.

For anyone who ever had the privilege to be in the presence of mom during a gathering — we know that the aroma of her cooking and the sound of her laughter will forever be etched in our memories.

Mama was also gifted with the most beautiful singing voice. To say she loved to sing is an understatement. She sang in the shower, while doing chores and cooking. But she gave her best performance in the choir.

In the Summer of 1992, during a drive along Highway 101 with her late husband, Vincent, mom discovered and fell in love with St. Mary’s by the Sea. This little church was the reason mom fell in love with the Oregon Coast. The second reason was fresh seafood in nearby Garibaldi. The following summer, we left California.

Prior to her arrival in the U.S. in 1985, mom lived and worked in (British) Hong Kong for over two decades. Of all the places she lived and visited, however, it was on the Oregon Coast where she felt the most at-home especially amongst her longtime friends, many of whom are from St. Mary’s choir.

Being a member of the choir was an honor Mom cherished and took very seriously. She loved her choir mates. One of her ritual before each performance for God was drink ginger tea with honey and little yodeling.

A Chaplain who visited mom in her final days told me they sang together and while mom was singing she made hand gestures, much like a conductor makes. She had music playing in every fiber of her being.

Mama loved to learn and she encouraged others to do the same. And whatever she learned, she would enthusiastically share.

During our last visit together, on the last three days of her life journey, I met many of the wonderful medical personnel who cared for mom. Almost each one had a special, beautiful and often funny story to share about their experience with her. A testament to just how resilient, gracious, hilarious, graceful and social she was until she was robbed of the ability to speak.

Let it be known, Mom loved her hot tea. She drank tea throughout the day — green or peppermint in the morning; chamomile at night. Mom was religious about this daily ritual as she was about praying the rosary.

An advice she gave one of her nurses was one she’s given for years. For a youthful complexion, take a used teabag and rub it gently all over the face. My beautiful mom lived without a single wrinkle.

While mom was in rehab undergoing physical therapy for a broken hip she suffered as she fell from stroke, one of the things she looked forward to besides physical therapy itself was playing Bingo. She played to win. After a game, back in her room, she would call me and enthusiastically announce what she had won and say: “next time I win, it’s for you.”

I am now the proud owner of all the scarves mom has ever won playing Bingo.

Mama enjoyed fashion and getting dressed up. She was classy and elegant. But it was her thoughtfulness and beautiful smile that were her best accessories. Mama was old school but very much open to new things. I have so many stories of her experiencing “firsts” but the one I’m about to share was a fairly recent event that makes me laugh every time I think about it.

“Hey, it’s me. I’m big shot now; I have a Facebook account.” The part that cracks me up was when she said “I ordered it.”

This was mom’s voicemail from April 21, 2020. I have played this message repeatedly to remember the child-like vibrance and curiosity mom possessed. She’s naturally funny and it’s heightened when she shares new discoveries.

Mama was strong yet gentle, especially towards animals and underdogs. She was independent yet curious; stubborn but transparent even if she didn’t like it at times. She was open to good debate as well as compromise.

When I was younger she wanted me to take piano lessons. I preferred the accordion, which technically is half a piano. We compromised and for years I was mom‘s personal in-house accordion player.

Mama was a woman on the go. During one our last Zoom calls, we spoke about finding balance between service and self and how important the latter is in order to sustain the former.

Mama lived a life of service to God and mankind. She was selfless and generous. She gave of her self whenever, wherever she can. She was a devoted and loyal wife. She loved her family, her friends, parishioners. She loved animals, especially her cat, Lucky. She loved me dearly.

Each of us will miss mom differently. Take the time to reflect and honor your best memories with her, of her. For me, birthdays will never be the same without her sweet voice serenading me and always ending the call with: “when are you and Jay going to give me a grandchild?”

I will miss home cooked meals lovingly prepared. Some of the best and fondest memories I have with mom were our visits while I was living in Portland. She always arrived with a cargo full of mouthwatering goodness of my favorite dishes portioned and labeled in their respective containers. She never traveled light. Oh, no.

Perhaps memories that hurt the most are ones that will never be. I will never welcome mom home physically to the house that she very much looked forward moving into with her beloved cat, Lucky, or seeing her reaction to a sign I bought that reads: “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house.” I bought it as a joke to get mom’s reaction. She would’ve said something like: “I’m here now. You can take that silly sign down now.” I think I’ll leave it up in protest.

I will never get to experience mom’s comforting words, honest critiques, helpful advice, twisted sense of humor or loving embrace. Her fur grandkids will never lick her face again. We’ll never enjoy a cup of tea together.

Whenever we find ourselves at a gathering, let’s take a moment to remember a special woman we called mama, ate, auntie, Tessie. Let’s celebrate her for what she meant to each of us.

Always be grateful; have faith in God, yourself and others. Live fully, age gracefully, laugh it off, remain curious and drink hot tea.

I love you, Mama.

Teresita is survived by her cat, Lucky; true love, Guus; daughter and only child Therese, her husband, Jay and their fur kids Prefontaine, Dalai, Symphony and Mira. They are joined by sister-in-law Zenaida Tan; nieces Christine, Mary Ann, Joann and nephew, Jason; great nieces and nephews; cousin Mario Pepinas (and family), and numerous friends throughout the world, especially her beloved longtime friends on the Oregon Coast: Tim and Barbara Croman, Margie Blackburn, Father Macdonald, Gloria Lyons, Gladys, Judy Sours, Loida, Mike & Lucy, Wayne & Roxy, Steve & Chris, and many others...

She was preceded in death by her husband, Vincent Townsend Smith; her parents and all her siblings. 

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Teresita Smith, please visit Tribute Store
Services for Teresita Smith
There are no events scheduled. You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family, or planting a memorial tree in memory of Teresita Smith.
Visit the Tribute Store
Share Your Memory of