Constance Ryder Smith of White Plains, New York, passed away peacefully from complications of presumed Covid-19 on April 14, 2020, at the age of 94. She was preceded in death by her deeply loved husband Dr. Alfred Ash Smith, daughter Hilary Anne Smith, parents Dr. Morton and Anne Ryder of Carmel, sister Diane Ryder, and brother and sister-in-law Clayton and Joan Ryder. Beloved mother of Leslie (Bruce) Lawrence of Beacon, longtime residents of Mahopac and Carmel, and Marguerite Smith of New Rochelle and grandmother of Lisa Lawrence of Mahopac and Katie Lawrence of Beacon—all of whom were Connie’s greatest pride and joy. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews, who share in their grief.
Connie was born in her parents’ home in Rye, New York, on December 14, 1925. She and Al raised their family in Elmsford and in Katonah, at their much loved home on Holly Hill Lane.
For Connie, being a Ryder was always a source of great pride. You could hear it in her voice: “Constance Ryder Smith.” At the time of her passing, she was the oldest living member of the extended Ryder family that has owned and worked the Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York, since 1795. She was the holder of the family’s heirloom gold-headed cane, which had been gifted to her great-great-grandfather Col. Stephen Ryder by his children in 1866 and is now kept by the family’s senior matriarch or patriarch.
One of Rye Country Day School’s earliest graduates, Connie received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from Wellesley College in 1947, and, a testament to her drive and determination, she received her Master of Science in Basic Medical Sciences from New York Medical College in 1982. She was like the Frontier women, setting out to do something and then doing it. By action more often than by words (although there were plenty of them, too!), she guided her daughters by example. In addition to her work, she was actively involved with local organizations, including her time as a Girl Scout leader, teaching Sunday School at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and as a volunteer at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Brilliant in her research, thoughtful and eloquent in her writing, Connie had a long and distinguished career as a well-published medical writer and editor of monographs and articles on an expansive range of scientific subjects. A career highlight, she authored the Hall of Science’s “The Diagnosis of Disease” exhibit for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, which included animated models and diagrams showing chemical and electronic detection used to help diagnose diabetes and other diseases.
She wrote for several pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, and publishers, including Abbott Laboratories, The Ames Company, Ayerst Laboratories, Biomedical Information Corporation, Connaught Laboratories, G.D. Searle & Company, Marion Laboratories, Parke-Davis, L.W. Frohlich & Company, Medicus Intercon, and McGraw-Hill.
She loved flowering trees and loved horses, cats, and dogs. She loved being wined and dined. She loved playing bridge and savored her See’s truffles. She has known love and had opportunities more than most. She ended her years in the best of what was a hard draw, the Kindred memory unit at The Ambassador in White Plains, where she received loving and devoted care—and where she was hailed as the “Bingo Queen,” a moniker that made her happy and brought on that joyful and luminous Connie smile.
Connie will be forever remembered for her grace in the face of difficulties; fierce advocacy for and selfless devotion to those she loved; and her kindness, generosity, and genuine compassion. Only lives so rich can leave such a big hole in our hearts when they are gone. She is missed beyond words.
A celebration of Connie’s life and burial at Raymond Hill Cemetery in Carmel will be held when the world starts spinning again. Until then, in lieu of flowers, plant a lilac bush or do a kind deed in her memory—she would have loved that. For those wishing, memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation (alzfdn.org).