In memory of
Anita Marlene Smith McKinney
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In memory of
Anita Marlene Smith McKinney
Anita Marlene Smith McKinney - - Anita Marlene Smith McKinney, a member of the Palm Springs pioneer McKinney family, passed away on September 10th, 2018. She was 79, and a resident of Palm Springs for more than 50 years. A biography and tribute to her life follows: Anita Marlene Smith McKinney was born in South Connellsville, Pa., on November 11, 1938, to Walter Norris Smith and Nellie Frances McElhaney Smith. Her mother's father, Frank McElhaney, was a locally famous inventor and stone sculptor. "Marlene", (her childhood name), attended grammar school in New Kensington, Pa., with her brothers, Roger and Larry. The family went to church regularly, in nearby Arnold, Pa. Grandfather Frank was cured of a severe limp & head-shaking, by faith healer, Kathryn Kuhlman (his crutches left onstage). Nellie contracted breast cancer in 1950, growing worse with time. Despite the children's ongoing prayers, she passed away in January 1954. Nevertheless, Marlene graduated from Connellsville High School (June 1956, age 17), and went to Philadelphia as a Bell Telephone information operator, answering only other Bell operators' inquiries. She lived in Bell's 'operators' dormitory in Philadelphia & appeared on American Bandstand in 1957. (wed-3/16/1968) Marlene then attended a multi-airline training program in Hartford, Connecticut. Employment in many fields followed: stewardess trainee, jewelry seller and model, undercover shopper, & finally, jewelry buyer, for Albert Steiger Co., in Hartford. Her stunning good looks led her into modeling. She traveled the entire East Coast, from Boston to Florida, in various jobs: fashion model, dance instructor (Fred Astaire School), etc. (even teaching the Detroit Tigers' wives, "The Twist", at their Spring Training camp in Lakeland, Florida, in 1962). In 1960, Marlene, deciding she'd like advertising, packed her belongings, drove to Providence, R.I., and was hired by Bo Bernstein Advertising of Providence. They had the "Kennedy For President", campaign, and, in the Summer of 1960, Marlene, while visiting Hyannisport, Ma., had a beer with John Kennedy, himself, (and received an invitation to his Inaugural Ball) ! In 1965, she became engaged to an older man, Will (he 35, she 26). He was Navy, transferring from Rhode Island to San Diego. She, now called, "Anita", went ahead to find them housing. Tragedy struck. Will was killed in a horrible automobile accident in Rhode Island. Distraught and alone, she landed in Palm Springs, Ca. Anita settled in Palm Springs, and never left. As she often quoted, "Once you get the desert's sand in your shoes, you'll never leave." She became a counter agent for Western Airlines at the Palm Springs Airport, telling how she climbed onto the terminal roof with binoculars to spot incoming flights. As a Western employee, she flew worldwide: Europe, Sweden, England, Ireland ( & kissed the Blarney Stone). Her stunning good looks often caused passersby to ask, "Say, aren't you": Jennifer Jones, or Barbara Feldon, or Marlo Thomas? She met a handsome Palm Springs pioneer family member. Six weeks later, after he filled her VW bug with chrysanthemums, she became Mrs. Michael A. McKinney. They began a family - son, Patrick, born, 1969; and Brian, 1977. She entered the Mrs. Palm Springs Beauty Contest in 1974 (2nd Place?!), was a Desert Circus Deputy, served jury duties, and appeared before the Palm Springs City Council (Mayor Sonny Bono presiding), to speak about a local parking ordinance banning RV's. "Will it be VW's or Cadillacs banned next?", she asked. When Mayor Bono replied, "We don't have the answers to those questions", the Council Chamber crowd clapped their hands and stomped their feet, chanting, "We want the answers now!" At meeting's end, Mayor Bono gave her a private, "OK", sign, whispering, "You did real good for your first time speaking, Mrs. McKinney." Tragedy struck again. Son, Patrick, was hit by a truck in an intersection, going home from school. He was 12. Years of hospitals, surgeries, and court rooms followed, dealing with his crippling injuries. The strain led to divorce in 1994. Anita, at age 55, strength and dignity intact, began a new career with Agua Caliente Casino, becoming first-name friends with Tribal Leader, Richard Milanovich. Tragedy returned. Patrick succumbed to those injuries in July of 2004. Three months later, her older brother, Roger, died suddenly, at age 67 (from cancer). Remaining son, Brian, married in 2005, moved to Denver, Colo., in 2006. Wanting his mom to have someone, he signed her up with Match.com . She met Stephen. Anita and Stephen spent the next 12 years together, traveling, to: Connellsville; Connecticut (Stephen's 50th High School Reunion); Denver (her 70th birthday); Nevada, and California. "We had a great run", she said recently. In July of 2018, she fell ill. Pain spread throughout her body. She went from appointment to appointment with no results, no diagnosis, no relief from the growing pain. On Wednesday, September 5th, 2018, unable to keep food down, Stephen took her to the ER at Desert Regional Medical Center. Anita's last words, as she left her Palm Springs home of 45 years, were, "God is calling me home." She died (of cancer) Monday, September 10th, 2018, at 2:43PM. Anita always said that she wasn't concerned about leaving this Earth, because, she knew that she would meet her mother in Heaven. That surely happened on September 10th. Anita lived life with joy, laughter, enthusiasm, love, and abiding faith in God. That faith overcame the tragedies and hardships she endured throughout her life. She always tried to be God's good and faithful servant. Anita Marlene Smith McKinney is survived by her son, Brian, her two beautiful granddaughters, Nola and Eden, cousins Connie Work & Dorene Provance of S. Connellsville, Pa.; Donald Coffman of DHS; his son, D.J. Coffman, and the Libent clan, of Vandergrift, Pa.; niece, Lisa Elofson; nephew Kraig Smith; sister-in-law Edwina Nygaard; step-sister, Flora Trough, and the Smith clan of Delaware & Pennsylvania. Sadly, Anita's younger brother, Larry Smith, of Sequim, Wa., died (of cancer), just 2-1/2 months after Anita's untimely passing. Anita is also survived by her lifetime partner, Stephen Eugene Backhus. She is interred at Forest Lawn in Cathedral City, California. Anita's final request in life was that no one fuss over her at some sort of 'wake'. Her remembrance, for those who cared about her, will be to see that the Palm Springs she loved so much continues to thrive, and to enchant all those who come here, as it did her.
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In memory of
Anita Marlene Smith McKinney
Anita Marlene Smith McKinney - - Anita Marlene Smith McKinney, a member of the Palm Springs pioneer McKinney family, passed away on September 10th, 2018. She was 79, and a resident of Palm Springs for more than 50 years. A biography and tribute to her life follows: Anita Marlene Smith McKinney was born in South Connellsville, Pa., on November 11, 1938, to Walter Norris Smith and Nellie Frances McElhaney Smith. Her mother's father, Frank McElhaney, was a locally famous inventor and stone sculptor. "Marlene", (her childhood name), attended grammar school in New Kensington, Pa., with her brothers, Roger and Larry. The family went to church regularly, in nearby Arnold, Pa. Grandfather Frank was cured of a severe limp & head-shaking, by faith healer, Kathryn Kuhlman (his crutches left onstage). Nellie contracted breast cancer in 1950, growing worse with time. Despite the children's ongoing prayers, she passed away in January 1954. Nevertheless, Marlene graduated from Connellsville High School (June 1956, age 17), and went to Philadelphia as a Bell Telephone information operator, answering only other Bell operators' inquiries. She lived in Bell's 'operators' dormitory in Philadelphia & appeared on American Bandstand in 1957. (wed-3/16/1968) Marlene then attended a multi-airline training program in Hartford, Connecticut. Employment in many fields followed: stewardess trainee, jewelry seller and model, undercover shopper, & finally, jewelry buyer, for Albert Steiger Co., in Hartford. Her stunning good looks led her into modeling. She traveled the entire East Coast, from Boston to Florida, in various jobs: fashion model, dance instructor (Fred Astaire School), etc. (even teaching the Detroit Tigers' wives, "The Twist", at their Spring Training camp in Lakeland, Florida, in 1962). In 1960, Marlene, deciding she'd like advertising, packed her belongings, drove to Providence, R.I., and was hired by Bo Bernstein Advertising of Providence. They had the "Kennedy For President", campaign, and, in the Summer of 1960, Marlene, while visiting Hyannisport, Ma., had a beer with John Kennedy, himself, (and received an invitation to his Inaugural Ball) ! In 1965, she became engaged to an older man, Will (he 35, she 26). He was Navy, transferring from Rhode Island to San Diego. She, now called, "Anita", went ahead to find them housing. Tragedy struck. Will was killed in a horrible automobile accident in Rhode Island. Distraught and alone, she landed in Palm Springs, Ca. Anita settled in Palm Springs, and never left. As she often quoted, "Once you get the desert's sand in your shoes, you'll never leave." She became a counter agent for Western Airlines at the Palm Springs Airport, telling how she climbed onto the terminal roof with binoculars to spot incoming flights. As a Western employee, she flew worldwide: Europe, Sweden, England, Ireland ( & kissed the Blarney Stone). Her stunning good looks often caused passersby to ask, "Say, aren't you": Jennifer Jones, or Barbara Feldon, or Marlo Thomas? She met a handsome Palm Springs pioneer family member. Six weeks later, after he filled her VW bug with chrysanthemums, she became Mrs. Michael A. McKinney. They began a family - son, Patrick, born, 1969; and Brian, 1977. She entered the Mrs. Palm Springs Beauty Contest in 1974 (2nd Place?!), was a Desert Circus Deputy, served jury duties, and appeared before the Palm Springs City Council (Mayor Sonny Bono presiding), to speak about a local parking ordinance banning RV's. "Will it be VW's or Cadillacs banned next?", she asked. When Mayor Bono replied, "We don't have the answers to those questions", the Council Chamber crowd clapped their hands and stomped their feet, chanting, "We want the answers now!" At meeting's end, Mayor Bono gave her a private, "OK", sign, whispering, "You did real good for your first time speaking, Mrs. McKinney." Tragedy struck again. Son, Patrick, was hit by a truck in an intersection, going home from school. He was 12. Years of hospitals, surgeries, and court rooms followed, dealing with his crippling injuries. The strain led to divorce in 1994. Anita, at age 55, strength and dignity intact, began a new career with Agua Caliente Casino, becoming first-name friends with Tribal Leader, Richard Milanovich. Tragedy returned. Patrick succumbed to those injuries in July of 2004. Three months later, her older brother, Roger, died suddenly, at age 67 (from cancer). Remaining son, Brian, married in 2005, moved to Denver, Colo., in 2006. Wanting his mom to have someone, he signed her up with Match.com . She met Stephen. Anita and Stephen spent the next 12 years together, traveling, to: Connellsville; Connecticut (Stephen's 50th High School Reunion); Denver (her 70th birthday); Nevada, and California. "We had a great run", she said recently. In July of 2018, she fell ill. Pain spread throughout her body. She went from appointment to appointment with no results, no diagnosis, no relief from the growing pain. On Wednesday, September 5th, 2018, unable to keep food down, Stephen took her to the ER at Desert Regional Medical Center. Anita's last words, as she left her Palm Springs home of 45 years, were, "God is calling me home." She died (of cancer) Monday, September 10th, 2018, at 2:43PM. Anita always said that she wasn't concerned about leaving this Earth, because, she knew that she would meet her mother in Heaven. That surely happened on September 10th. Anita lived life with joy, laughter, enthusiasm, love, and abiding faith in God. That faith overcame the tragedies and hardships she endured throughout her life. She always tried to be God's good and faithful servant. Anita Marlene Smith McKinney is survived by her son, Brian, her two beautiful granddaughters, Nola and Eden, cousins Connie Work & Dorene Provance of S. Connellsville, Pa.; Donald Coffman of DHS; his son, D.J. Coffman, and the Libent clan, of Vandergrift, Pa.; niece, Lisa Elofson; nephew Kraig Smith; sister-in-law Edwina Nygaard; step-sister, Flora Trough, and the Smith clan of Delaware & Pennsylvania. Sadly, Anita's younger brother, Larry Smith, of Sequim, Wa., died (of cancer), just 2-1/2 months after Anita's untimely passing. Anita is also survived by her lifetime partner, Stephen Eugene Backhus. She is interred at Forest Lawn in Cathedral City, California. Anita's final request in life was that no one fuss over her at some sort of 'wake'. Her remembrance, for those who cared about her, will be to see that the Palm Springs she loved so much continues to thrive, and to enchant all those who come here, as it did her.
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