LINDA KIGER SMITH
1948 – 2021
Linda Kiger Smith died at home in Tewksbury on June 11 after a long battle with Metastatic Breast Cancer. A resident of the Historic District of Morristown, New Jersey for many years, she provided a gorgeous home for a loving family, studied the violin, founded a performing arts center, created many concert series, and fostered and adopted many dogs and cats.
Born on June 28, 1948 in Van Wert, Ohio, Linda was the youngest of three sisters raised by her parents, the late Dorothy Mae Grunewald and James L. Brown. Attending high school first in Midland, Michigan, then in Stamford, Connecticut, she did very well in school and excelled as a vocalist, proven by her selection to All-State Chorus. For her senior year, she attended and graduated from the prestigious Rhodes Preparatory School in Manhattan. She followed Rhodes with attendance at NYU.
Moving to New York City in the late 1960s, she worked for a marketing agency where she designed record jackets among many other things, including releases by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and Melanie. She also worked at Kama Sutra Records and the James Dine Newsletter (best known for be the first for predicting the gold frenzy in the Seventies) before marrying William P. Kiger of Milford, Pennsylvania in 1971 and having two children. The two split up in the mid-1970s.
In 1980, Linda met Don Jay Smith and the couple began a 41 year partnership as soulmates, best friends, business partners, and husband and wife. Together they bought an old house in Morristown’s Historic District, founded the Historic Neighborhood Association, and restored the house to Victorian grandeur. Their Morristown house was the center of much activity filled with music, laughter, lots of friends and family, and always great food. Linda’s instinct for doing what’s right won two “Historic Preservation Awards” more than a decade apart.
A third child joined the household in 1994. That same year, Linda and Don led a small group of residents who founded The Community Theatre of Morristown, a Walter Reade Movie Theatre which had lain fallow for more than a decade. Linda became the driving force behind the transformation of the theatre into a major performing arts center and served as its first Artistic and Executive Director. Under her leadership the theatre became one of New Jersey’s premiere arts centers, presenting the biggest names in the music world including Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Maynard Ferguson, Midori, Greg Allman, B.B. King, and Judy Collins. One of her favorite events was an evening with Dave Brubeck reunited with his former drummer Joe Morello. After leaving the theatre, she continued to bring the joy of live music to thousands of people up until the pandemic.
During this time she also learned to play the violin, becoming a member of the first violin section with the Abbey Orchestra at Delbarton. When not practicing the violin, running the Community Theatre or taking care of her family, she found time for cooking and knew a great deal about food which made France one of her favorite places to travel. She was extremely talented with her hands and with the domestic arts, including knitting, crocheting, decorating, and baking.
After moving to Tewksbury in 2004, she became a performing arts consultant, programming for the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, NJCU, Seton Hall University’s Executive Suite Program, Stockton University’s Annual Gala, and Jersey City Sounds of Summer Program. She also co-founded and programmed the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, one of the largest and most popular summer festivals in the region.
Extremely well read, she was a whiz at the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle and excelled at Scrabble. She had a great sense of humor and was always making jokes and puns to the delight of everyone around her.
She received many awards over her life including Morris County Business Woman of the Year from the Daily Record, the DMA Echo Award, the Corporate Philanthropy Award from Morris Arts, as well as many New Jersey Ad Club and Jasper Awards.
In addition to creating a loving home for her family, she was passionate about animals. She and Don had nine dogs and eight cats during their years together and Linda fostered dozens of others. Her favorite cat, Calico, died just a couple of hours before she did, but she still had a rescued Spaniel mix named Riley, and one cat Minou.
Linda leaves behind her husband and best friend, Don Jay Smith; two daughters, Allison Kiger of New York City, and Rebecca Smith-Fuentes and her husband William of Hackensack; a son Charles Kiger of Long Beach Island; a sister Janice Potash of Madison; her husband’s family, and seven nieces and nephews. A celebration of her life will be held in September when everyone can gather to pay tribute to a woman who brought the joy of the performing arts and her special friendship to so many.
Donations in her name may be made to the Tewksbury Rescue Squad, the Whitehouse Rescue Squad or Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Scarponi-Bright Funeral Home in Lebanon, NJ.
Personal photo courtesy of Gellman Images.