On Sunday morning, September 12 Elizabeth “Libby” Roark Schmalzried passed away just a few weeks shy of her 102nd birthday. She was born Nora Elizabeth Roark, but if you wanted to be her friend, and she had hundreds of them from every walk of life, she insisted that you call her “Libby.” She is survived by her daughter Linda Carole Strutt of Coconut Creek, Florida and her son Barry Roark Strutt and his wife Frances Anne of White Plains, New York.
She was often heard saying “you play the cards you are dealt” and well she played hers. Her boundless energy and unmatched zest for life amazed all who were privileged to know her. From the moment of her birth (her mother lamented that even as an infant she never napped), Libby was on a mission to get things done. She had a lot to do!
Libby was one of a kind, fiercely independent, relentless and resourceful, an avid believer in living life fully, in learning and experiencing every day, laughing often, never procrastinating. She was genuinely interested in people, generous and thoughtful with legions of loyal friends who will miss her terribly. Libby was committed to the welfare of her family ensuring their bodies, minds and spirits were nurtured. She had high standards, committed to having things done the right way, she would often say “if everyone just did what they were supposed to do, the world would work.” She was a taskmaster with a big heart, a razor sharp mind, and a keen sense of humor, a storyteller in the Irish tradition. Traits she maintained to the end.
Libby was a bit of a tomboy growing up and stayed physically active into her 90’s. She was the “cover girl” for the Friendship Center in Harrisburg where she worked with a trainer several times a week until the pandemic shutdown. She loved crafts, creating a Christmas stocking pattern that appeared in a national magazine (and knitting them for generations of relatives). She also loved talking on the phone, holiday celebrations, telling jokes, travel, shopping and keeping up with the styles with the help of her daughter-in-law Fran (her “personal shopper”), gardening, dogs, butterflies. Most of all she loved spending time with family and friends (new and old), so often serving as the hostess. She actually planned every detail of her unforgettable 100th birthday party--right down to the Irish step dancing. Over decades she rarely missed a birthday club lunch. Breakfast was her favorite meal, especially sweet when shared with her kids and friends. She loved those Thanksgiving dinners in Virginia with the Schmalzried clan, Auburn tailgating and Hilton Head trips with the Roarks, and family Christmases memorialized by Fran Strutt the family photographer.
Libby was born on October 8, 1919 in Birmingham, Alabama as Nora Elizabeth Roark. She had one brother, Walter Lynch Roark of Greenwood . S.C., now deceased, whose four beloved children and their families she loved and who lovingly called her “Aunt Libby.”
She received a B.A. from Birmingham Southern College with a major in Sociology, a minor in Psychology, and a teacher’s certificate in English, history, and social studies. She held offices in Alpha Gamma, Sigma Epsilon, Women’s Athletic Association, Belle Letters, Tri Tau. She was a member of Mortar Board and Kappa Delta Epsilon honor societies as well as Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. Libby was awarded a scholarship to pursue graduate studies in social work at Richmond Professional Institute (now Commonwealth University). Afterwards she served as executive director of the Gaston County Girl Scout Council.
During World War II, Libby served as Director of Recreation for American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky; McDill Field, Florida; Selman Field, Monroe, Louisiana, and the Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. She married Joseph Strutt, whom she met at Camp Breckenridge, on July 16, 1945 at Camp Lejeune. At the end of WWII they moved to Dallas, Pennsylvania where both their children were born.
The family moved to Colonial Crest in Harrisburg in 1952. Libby worked as Service Club Director at Olmsted Air Force Base receiving a commendation for her work. In 1956 she became Volunteer Resources Director at the Harrisburg State Hospital a position she held until 1970 when her husband Joe retired and they moved to the Ft. Lauderdale area.
She returned to Harrisburg in 1975 after the death of her husband and mother. She worked briefly in the Activities Department at South Mountain Hospital and Rehabilitation Center before becoming a Field Representative for the State’s Central Regional Office of Mental Health where she worked until her retirement.
On November 5, 1994, Libby married William Richard Schmalzried in St. Margaret Mary Church. They were both active in various church organizations and other community groups, including the board of the Irish Heritage Society. Her tireless volunteer work included nine years as a Eucharistic Minister, two years on the Board of St. Luke’s Guidance Clinic, various areas of St. Catherine Laboure Church and School. Libby was also a member of the historical committee at the Harrisburg State Hospital. After retirement she avidly pursued her ancestral roots, traveling extensively with her brother Walter through Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee, the National Archives and their ancestral homeland Ireland, culminating in sizeable genealogy reports she gifted her family.
Libby amassed an impressive array of friends through the years in addition to her husband’s large families, many of whom were included in her annual Christmas card list. Her Christmas letters became “legendary”, always ending with an Irish toast or blessing. This may have been one of her favorites: “May you live as long as you want! And never want as long as you live! May the saddest day of the future, be no worse than the happiest day of the past.” She may no longer be with us in person, but those Irish eyes will smile down on us forever more.
If you want to honor Libby’s memory, laugh, rejoice in your family and friends, pay her kindness forward. Contributions in her honor are welcome. Please contribute to a cause you share with Libby: disabled veterans; breast cancer, Alzheimer’s or diabetes research (especially the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation); Girl Scouts, mental health, animal rescue.