Christine M. Smith died peacefully on August 23 at her home in Edgartown. She was 81.

She was born Gesa Christiana Martinoff on March 6, 1941 to Ralph Martinoff and Waldtraut Dorothea von Schilling of Tallin, Estonia. Her father was killed in action during World War II and her mother later married Hans Walter in Germany, with whom she had three children. Her family moved to Glenside, Penn. in 1956.

She studied French literature at the University of Pennsylvania, achieving a bachelor of arts in 1965 and a master of arts in 1969. She also attended Columbia University and the City University of New York while working toward her Ph.D. in comparative literature. She taught French and German at the university and grade school levels.

While studying at Penn she met the love of her life and husband of 50 years, Owen C. Smith. They married on December 17, 1966. Upon Owen’s return from the Vietnam War, they lived in New York city, where their son Philip was born. They then moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, where their children Andrew and Sarah were born, before returning to Connecticut and settling in New Canaan in 1978.

Chris was involved in school committee and fundraising activities at various institutions, including Kent School, where she served as a longtime trustee. She also served on the board of directors at Waveny in New Canaan and was an officer of The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

She had a passion for ideas and beauty, which manifested in her love of literature, art and music. She loved going to the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Museum of Art with her children. She devoured books and had an astute knowledge of the history of the Baltic states, often intertwined with family lineage and lore. Her preparation for book groups was matched only by the festive gatherings she hosted, from her annual Christmas caroling party to fundraisers.

People gravitated to Chris because of her welcoming smile, cheerful laughter, and sincere interest in others. She was an enthusiastic tennis player, graceful skier and adventurous shipmate on cruises from the Virgin Islands to the Hebrides. She loved animals and gardening and found joy in her last weeks coaxing a butterfly from its chrysalis to a majestic monarch that now graces her Edgartown garden.

She was a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club, the Country Club of New Canaan, New Canaan Winter Club, Chappaquiddick Beach Club, the Schilling Association, and a lady of the Edgartown Reading Room. She was also a member of St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, where her seven grandchildren were baptized. She loved her family above all and felt lucky to have her siblings as knowledgeable and lively pillars of strength.

Christine is survived by her three children, Philip C. Smith II and his wife Chloe of Winterport, Me., Andrew C. von S. Smith and his wife Shannon of New Canaan, Conn., and Sarah S. Betz and her husband William of Darien, Conn.; her brother Hans Walter and his wife Penny, and sister Marion Leonard and her husband Kim; her grandchildren, Charles and Hazel (Phil), Adeline and Andrew Jr. (Andy), Oliver, Margaret, and Louisa (Sally); and her beloved dog of 17 years, Missy.

She was predeceased by her husband, Owen C. Smith, and her brother, Ralph Walter.

A memorial service will be held on Oct. 15 at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan at 4 p.m., with a reception to follow.

Memorial donations may be made to the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.