Hilde Tarkel Smith, a gentle woman who spent years maintaining two of Montauk’s more historic buildings, died at Southampton Hospital on Saturday, three weeks shy of her 90th birthday. She had been in failing health for several months.
She was born in Germany, the daughter of William and Anna Tarkel. During her early career as an X-ray technician in Baltimore, she met Dr. Dwight R. Smith. The couple were married in 1951. While her husband served on the staffs of three hospitals in the greater Baltimore area, she focused on her love of antiques and decorating while raising their three children.
It was her husband’s interest in skin diving that led the Smiths to Montauk. After a number of years traveling back and forth between Montauk and Baltimore, they purchased one of the Seven Sisters, a cottage designed by the firm McKim, Mead, and White in the 1880s. The grand old house became Mrs. Smith’s home for 35 years.
There she carried on her passion for local history and period decorating, while also renting rooms on the property to summer visitors. There was a three-apartment cottage, and other apartments in the Grandview Manor, a building that was moved from the beach at Ditch Plain and had once been a U.S. Life-Saving Service station.
Mrs. Smith eventually sold the larger Stanford White house and focused her energy on restoring the Grandview Manor. She lived a quiet and peaceful life there among the birds, wildlife, and sound of the sea she loved.
She is survived by two sons, Jeffrey Smith of Maryland and Randy Smith of Montauk, and a daughter, Claudia Dickinson, also of Montauk. Ms. Dickinson said her mother was grateful to those who showed her great kindness and compassion during her last years, especially Dr. Anthony Knott, the crew of the Montauk Ambulance Company, and the nurses at Southampton Hospital.
A private graveside service is planned at Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk. Memorial contributions were suggested for the Montauk Medical Center through Southampton Hospital, 240 Meeting House Lane, Southampton 11968, or to the Montauk Ambulance Company, 12 Flamingo Avenue, Montauk 11954.