Leslie Lorraine Smith Elias passed away the morning of July 8, 2013, at her home in Grass Valley. She was 59.
Leslie was born on Jan. 25, 1954, in Ukiah, Calif., to Bill and Billie Smith. Leslie was raised in Ukiah and graduated from Evergreen College in Olympia, Wash., earning a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology in 1976. After graduation she spent time crewing on sailing yachts based in Piraeus, Greece. On returning to the U.S., she worked for Washington State’s Dept. of Natural Resources, building artificial reefs in the Puget Sound. In the early 1980s she toured the world as a marine biologist, worked on the Great Barrier Reef and with National Geographic on whale research in the Maui Channel. Back on the U.S. mainland, she received a master’s degree in environmental science from Humboldt State in Arcata, Calif. While there, she met her husband, Paul Elias, whom she soon married. After five years in Boulder, Colo., the couple relocated in 1987 to live and work in Grass Valley, raising two sons, Benjamin and Nicholas.
While in Boulder, Leslie was a partner with her husband in a small waste management company, Sage Recycling. Receiving a grant in 1984 from Boulder County, she developed a K-6th curriculum guide to investigate solid waste, its management practices and to promote recycling at home, in schools and the workplace for the Boulder Valley School District, one of the first of this type of curriculum in the nation.
Leslie had a passion for photography, first in black and white that evolved into color computer-developed imaginary. She partnered with good friend Dee Levan to open Shadow Dance Photography in 2005. Her artistic sense of the right pose or view made her a successful photographer with clients in Nevada County, Mendocino and Humboldt County. Her legacy of photos of the redwood forests, coastal Northern California, her beloved Nevada County and the Yuba River, as well as her ability to bring out the humanity of her dog subjects, is something special to her customers, friends and family.
Leslie lived her life fearlessly, with great courage. She saw beauty and light in life and photographed it wherever she went. She lived with great compassion.
She is survived by her husband of 30 years, Paul Elias; sons Benjamin, his wife Alex of Davis, and Nicholas Elias of Monterey; parents, William and Billie Smith of Ukiah; brothers Kevin and Brad Smith of San Diego and Douglas Smith of Berkeley.
Leslie’s Celebration of Life service will be held at 2 p.m., July 21, at the Unitarian Universalist Community of The Mountains, 246 S. Church St., in Grass Valley. A pot-luck reception will immediately follow at the NC Horsemen’s Club, Brunswick Road and Bubble Wells Road, Grass Valley.
Contributions in Leslie’s name may be made to the Cancer Aid Thrift Store, 317 S. Auburn St., Grass Valley, Calif. 95945.