Stella Smith, La Ballona’s Librarian

With so much pain and so much sadness in the landscape, there is one spot on Washington Boulevard, right in front of La Ballona Elementary School, that commemorates so much love. The statue of Leo the Lion is covered with flowers and notes, mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Stella Smith, the school’s librarian of 20 years. Tributes from students, from teachers, parents and administrators all reflected the deep appreciation of her connection with the community, and the sorrow of her loss. 

“Stella was, in my view, the heart and soul of the school for all of those years. She did so much for all the students,” noted her friend, Julia Taslimi, who teaches fifth grade at the school, “She had poetry clubs, writing clubs, and Black History clubs. She held these clubs during lunch times, often personally publishing their poetry and writing. She also would have parties for students to celebrate milestones in their school lives, providing the pizza, ice cream, chips. She attended countless birthday parties, quinceñeras, and bar & bat mitzvahs. If she was invited to a celebration – she went. I calculate that in her 20 years at La Ballona, [at least] 2500 students passed through her library, and the vast majority of them were touched by her, and most of them loved her dearly.” 

Marti Paez, the head of the PTA, reached out to let the students offer their commemorations at the statue. Flowers, notes, candles – all offered gratitude for Smith’s career and her support for the children.

Smith’s son, Damon Hines, offered, “To fulfill my Mother’s wishes, we will be postponing her memorial until a time emerges that we can all commune in her presence. I am determined to make sure her memorial is done right, and bring her the recognition she so deeply deserves.” He plans for a “Celebration of a Life Well Lived” in  late July or early August. 

“As a bridge to my Mother’s memorial, I’d like to request that [everyone] please consider making a donation to the following caregivers group:  USC Family Caregiver Support Center. My mother found peace and support at the USC Caregiver Support Center, so I’d like to honor her by directing donations to this organization.”

Luis H. Ramirez, the principal at La Ballona, noted that “The memorial around our lion is growing as families continue to contribute to her memory.”

Checks should be made payable to: USC Leonard Davis School

Donations may be mailed to: USC Family Caregiver Support Center
c/o USC Leonard Davis Development Office
3715 McClintock Avenue, Suite 110
Los Angeles, CA 90089

* Please indicate on checks: In Loving Memory of Stella L. Smith

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang


  1. I sat many a time in the library with Stella and we talked about everything. I’m so saddened to her hear of her passing. She was such a lovely woman and kind soul. Now she can read all the books she wants.

  2. My Mother was indeed, a beautiful soul. Thank you for remembering her well! Your kind words bring me comfort in my mourning. I will love her the rest of my days.

    Her Loving Son,

  3. Hi Damon:

    I am just finding out about your mom after texting and calling without a reply, my friend helped me to be told she was gone. I really wanted to talk to her, as she and I would talk so often when she would bring me home after our food management class. I will miss her dearly, she was great support for me after hearing of my mom’s passing. I loved Stella and miss her so much.Anything I can do, let me know you have my support.

  4. I’m so sad the hear the passing of my dear friend Stella. We used go to Souplantation together. We talked about our writing projects. I kept texting her and I called and I didn’t get a reply. Now I know why. I’m very, very sad. She was such a beautiful and caring person. I will miss her dearly.

  5. I worked with Stella for a short period of time at the Culver City Library and I must say we clicked right away because of the things we had in common. We were raised in Arkansas, cites a few miles apart and my mother’ name is “Loretta!” We considered ourselves “country girls” a special type of up bringing, with certain morals and values that you don’t find in urban girls. So we always laughed and talked about the south and our roots! Not only was she intelligent but beautiful inside out! Always with a smile even when she wasn’t smiling, just a pleasant demeanor all the way around. We shared spiritual conversations as well as enjoyed each other’s presence! Oh how I wish I could have spent more time with her. She was one of a kind and I will never forget her. Even though we parted ways from the Library we remained in contact through Facebook and she also visited me in Las Vegas a few years ago. This is heartbreaking to find out but after reading about all the lives she touched and everything positive she had going on makes me humble! I love you Stella Smith and thank you for touching my life in a personal way and this is only a snippet of my tribute to you! RIH ♥️Gone too soon but never forgotten!

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