If you’ve followed Kindex for very long, you’ll know that we frequently post about our Grandma Dorothy Smith Clark. Today I want to share with you why her story is so important to us.
As a child, I asked Grandma Clark what she would like for her birthday. “Tell me a story,” she answered. This voice speaks to me still. As a young teenager she encouraged me to create and write. A visit with her hardly went by without her suggesting, “Write me a poem.” That encouragement speaks to me still. Today, when I read her letters and diaries, I see her notes in the margins revealing instructions for a personal history—a project she never completed before passing away. Those notes speak to me still.
A marked-up page from Dorothy’s life history.
When my cousin Kimball and I decided to launch Kindex, our aim was to create a solution for the enormous body of work our grandma left behind. While it was impossible for Dorothy to envision the type of indexing tool we are building today, I like to think she had a sense of what was to come. She had the gift of foresight, the ability to anticipate and address needs. In a sense, building Kindex will finish the work she started, while also helping us tell her story.
And what is her story? I’ll share just a part. While still a young mother, Dorothy completed her Book of Remembrance. A work of art in its own right, its pages reveal her deep sense of ancestral belonging, records of her parents’ and grandparents’ spiritual gifts, and a recognition of her own divine purpose and talents. As Dorothy developed her own spiritual gifts, her ability to discern the needs of others and act in faith became a catalyst for ministering to others, notwithstanding the fear and shyness she often felt. To the question posed to the Savior, “Who is my neighbor?” Dorothy could answer: the plumber, the piano tuner, the refugee, or the outcast—anyone in her path in need of help.
A watercolored page from the Dorothy Smith Clark Book of Remembrance
Dorothy’s 1964 poster sketch titled “We Believe in Sharing” affirmed the scope of her desires: to give all she had—her talents, testimony, labor, food, and possessions, bringing “more happiness, enrich[ing] the world, sharing all that has come to us as a church and as individual members.”
Often overcome with social anxiety or limited by her heath, Dorothy preferred personal visits to projects, created art to share the gospel, and wrote hundreds of inspired letters that today stand as a witness to bear one another’s burdens. Without prejudice or judgment, her nurturing influence reached beyond her own nine children when she became a foster mother to two Navajo children and a personal advocate for many Southeast Asian refugees who affectionately called her “Mother Clark”.
Dorothy Clark with husband Ellsworth, foster son Cody Black, and Cody’s family.
While Dorothy’s art was never exhibited, her painting of Paul Wildhaber’s “The Armor of Righteousness” was the centerpiece of her home. Unlike others who traditionally depicted male religious figures, 20-year-old Dorothy changed the painting’s subject from hero to heroine, thus broadening the view of those who are “armed in righteousness”. From her childhood fairy gifts to the ministering of the needful and forgotten, her visionary example of what a woman can do endures through her depiction of this righteous and strong heroine.
Dorothy Smith in Paul Wildhaber’s studio.
Dorothy Smith’s completed “Armor of Righteousness”
Dorothy continued her talent of creating and sharing family histories well into the last years of her life. In 1980 she participated in the World Conference of Records in a booth of her own design.
Dorothy at the World Conference of Records in 1980
As I think about her life, I see a patterns emerging as her children, grandchildren, and beyond strive to finish what she started. Kindex is just a small part of a larger effort to emulate the kind of woman she was. Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed at the pressures of launching a startup while still raising a young family, I look at the binders and boxes of her records and think, “Soon, we’ll know your story. Not long yet.”
Dorothy and Ellsworth in New Zealand, 1974
[i] Dorothy Smith, Sketches. “We Believe in Sharing”, 1964