Toby Smith, Santa Rosa travel journalist and author, dies at 85 – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

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The world and the written word intrigued Toby Smith, a Sonoma County journalist who made a dream avocation of traveling to inns up and down the Pacific Coast and throughout Mexico and writing about their wonders and their room for improvement.

Smith, whose given name was Isabelle Marie, was for 60 years the wife and travel partner of late Press Democrat reporter Ray Smith. She died Feb. 7 at the age of 85.

As a young woman, the native of New Jersey studied journalism at Washington State University, then wrote for the newspaper on Whidbey Island, then for magazines in New York and for the former Santa Rosa News Herald. For several years, she produced a magazine, Golden Gate North.

Smith did a good deal of freelance writing, and she brilliantly melded her love of travel and journalism by motoring from the Pacific Northwest to southern Mexico with her husband, staying in bed-and-breakfast inns and writing about them in a newsletter that she published. Her articles appeared also in Travel & Leisure, Travel-Holiday, Diversion and other regional and national magazines.

Smith’s extensive travels throughout Mexico inspired her well researched 1985 book, “Romantic Inns of Mexico,” published by Chronicle Books.

Sharing her and her husband’s adventures and meals in Chichén Itzá, she wrote, “Some entrées offered here include venison. Yucatán is known not only for lobster and other seafood, but for deer meat. The animals have plenty to eat in the jungle, and you often see one or two men riding bicycles down the side of a main road, carrying rifles. I kept wondering how they would load their prey onto their bikes but never spotted a successful hunter and therefore am still in the dark.”

Smith updated and republished “Romantic Inns of Mexico” in 2000.

She and her husband were active for years in the former Sonoma County Press Club. Toby Smith volunteered as a docent at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and belonged to Friends of the Sonoma County Museum and the American Association of University Women.

Sons Andy and Scott Smith, both of Santa Rosa, said some of her happiest days were spent leisurely at the vacation home and property she and their father bought decades ago along Indian Creek in Philo, near Boonville in Mendocino County.

Toby Smith was happy, too, driving the 1929 Model A Ford that she bought in the 1960s.

“That was her car,” Andy Smith said. “And she drove it, and us, everywhere.”

Toby and Ray Smith lived for many years in a grand, old house in Santa Rosa’s historic McDonald Avenue district. Ray Smith died there in 2011, at age 83.

His wife continued to live there until her declining health prompted son Andy to bring her into his family’s home a couple of miles away. All of her family was with her when she died Sunday.

In addition to her two sons, Toby Smith is survived by two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

No services are planned.

Memorial contributions are suggested to Memorial Hospice, 439 College Ave., Santa Rosa, 95401; the Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, 95403 or the Sonoma County Public Library Foundation, 211 E St., Santa Rosa, 95404.

Toby Smith, Santa Rosa travel journalist and author, dies at 85 – Santa Rosa Press Democrat