Mildred Smith Hays

By April 11, 2011

March 15, 1920 — March 31, 2011

Mildred Hays of Davis passed away on March 31, 2011, shortly after her 91st birthday.

Mildred’s many friends at Covell Gardens in Davis, where she lived for the last three years of her life, will remember her for her optimistic spirit and engaging personality. Prior to moving to Davis to be close to her daughter Patty, Mildred and her husband, W.Lee Hays, focused much of their energy on keeping life active and vibrant for their friends and neighbors at the River’s Edge retirement community in Sacramento for 10 years, which Mildred continued for another five years after her husband passed in 2001.

Mildred and her twin sister Maxine were born in Hartford City, Ind., the youngest of seven children. They lived on the family farm and were affectionately known as the “Smith Twins.” Her family survived during the Depression by selling gravel to the WPA for the many projects in the Midwest. In 1918, she graduated from high school and started nurse’s training in Indianapolis. However, at the age of 19, she contracted tuberculosis from a patient and spent the next two years in a tuberculosis sanitarium recovering. Here she took it upon herself to make the best of her situation and embarked on a life-long journey of reading and self education. Mildred’s journal from this time reflects her thoughts on the classics she read and the lessons they taught her.

Upon recovery, she entered the University of Indiana and received a bachelor of arts degree in public health nursing in 1946. She worked as an industrial health nurse for Interstate Bakeries in Chicago, where she met her future husband, W. Lee Hays. They married in 1950 and moved to Kansas City, Kan., where their three daughters were born.

In January of 1961, Lee was transferred to Birmingham, Ala., where the family lived for the next nine years. This was at the height of the civil rights struggles in Birmingham, and Mildred made sure that her children were aware of the struggles for equal rights and supported this by her actions and words. During this time she was a public health nurse providing in-home support for low-income mothers and their new babies. She also worked at St Vincent’s Hospital as a nurse in charge of infection control. During a time when few women worked outside the home, she provided a positive role model for her three daughters and their future lives.

In 1969, Mildred and Lee moved to Memphis, Tenn., where again Mildred worked as an infection control nurse. Transferred once again, the couple lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then moved to Atlanta, Ga., where they spent 12 years in retirement. In Atlanta, Mildred was honored by the Atlanta City Council for her work on the Senior Citizens Commission.

In 1990,Mildred and Lee moved to River’s Edge Retirement Home in Sacramento to be near their daughter Patty in Davis and other California relatives. Here they were a popular couple and very active in the activities of River’s Edge. Mildred and Lee could also be seen sitting in the bleachers and on deck watching their grandchildren’s swimming meets and water polo games in Davis. She also enjoyed college sports and was a great fan of Indiana University, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford and the University of Alabama. Lee died in 2001 after 51 years of marriage to Mildred. Davis became Mildred’s home in 2006, and she spent her time there enjoying water aerobics, playing cards and being with her family.

Mildred is survived by her three daughters and their spouses: Patty and Eric Newman of Davis; Brenda and Gene Burnett of Dothan, Ala.; and Julie Hays and Steve Danielson of New York City. She also has five grandchildren: Christopher, Keenan and Sara Newman and Lea and Laura Burnett. Mildred was very close with her nieces and nephews, especially her twin’s children, Karen Price and Mike Hudson of Sacramento and Bill Hudson of Providence Rhode Island.

Mildred lived through huge transitions in her life: the Depression, WWII, tuberculosis, civil rights, senior issues and many moves all over the country. Throughout this, she lived her life with great optimism, integrity and a great interest in the worked around her. She was a firm believer in equal rights for all and the power of public education. She was a great lady who will be missed by all.

There will be a private family remembrance in Davis. Donations in Mildred’s name may be made to the American Red Cross or the Davis Schools Foundation.

Special to The Enterprise

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