Model-turned-actress Shelley Smith died aged 70 on Tuesday, with husband Michael Maguire and twin boys Nicholas and Miranda at her bedside.
Maguire was in tears when he announced the news of his death in a Facebook videodays after announcing that she had suffered cardiac arrest and was hospitalized.
She began her career in fashion in the 1970s before branching out into comedy, starring opposite Martin Short in the legal sitcom The Associates.
However, her biggest TV fame came when she found an outlet for her wits on the game show circuit, specifically The $10,000 Pyramid.
In the 1990s, amid her own struggles with having children, she dedicated herself to helping other couples with fertility issues by founding the egg donation program.
Throwback: Model-turned-actress Shelley Smith died aged 70 on Tuesday; pictured in a 1979 commercial for her sitcom The Associates
Smith was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1952, and after graduating from Connecticut College, she entered the fashion industry in the early 1970s.
She modeled in a variety of major magazines, including Vogue and Mademoiselle, and in 1981 landed on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.
By then she had embarked on a burgeoning acting career, starting in 1979 with the TV movie Mirror, Mirror, which starred Janet Leigh of Psycho fame.
That same year, she successfully landed her own show – The Associates, a sitcom about a group of young lawyers at a Wall Street law firm.
With James L. Brooks among its creators and Martin Short among its stars, the series was a hit with critics but only lasted one season on ABC.
Smith, however, bounced back and in 1983 had his own show – For Love And Honor, a drama said to have been inspired by An Officer and a Gentleman.
Amid a cast that included Keenan Ivory Wayans, Smith played the role of a beautiful nurse caring for members of the 88th Airborne Division.
During the same decade, Smith burst onto the game show scene, winning the hearts of audiences on such programs as Body Language and Super Password.
Radiant: In 1979, the year she broke into acting, she managed to land her own show – The Associates, a sitcom about a group of young lawyers at a Wall Street law firm
Remember When: With James L. Brooks among its creators and Martin Short (left) among its stars, the series was a hit with critics but only lasted one season on ABC
Her most enduring gig was Pyramid, which she followed from its debut as The $10,000 Pyramid through various markups until it became The $100,000 Pyramid.
Smith used the combination of her quick wit and calm composure to become a terrific player and crowd favorite.
In her video statement about her death, her widower noted that she had been “so proud” of the money she had helped her castmates earn on the show.
Her personal life, however, was marred by years of heartbreak as she and then-husband Reid Nathan attempted to have a baby.
They welcomed a son called Justin together in 1989, only to be struck by tragedy when their newborn baby died at just three days old.
Eventually, in March 1995, she was able to give birth to her twins Nicholas and Miranda after combining her own brother’s sperm with donor eggs.
Smith’s brother Leigh, who had three children of his own, was just days away from a planned vasectomy when his sister called and asked for his help.
She obviously wanted to get a donor from her own family because she wanted to have a genetic connection to her children.
Triumphant: However, her greatest fame on TV came when she found an outlet for her wits on the game show circuit, specifically The $10,000 Pyramid
Making it happen: Smith used the combination of her quick wit and calming composure to become a terrific player and crowd favorite
Nicholas was the first of her twins to arrive, and she told the Los Angeles Times: ‘I will never forget the moment of looking into the eyes of this little boy.’
When Nicholas was born, he “didn’t fuss or cry”. He came straight down from the sky and he just looked at me,” his mother said.
Her widower Michael Maguire recalled in his in memoriam video that “when she wanted to have kids and was struggling herself, she went through the process and saw what was wrong with the industry”.
He added that “following her own efforts to have NICky and Miranda, she started a business, the Egg Donor program, which also later added the surrogacy program, which has helped thousands and thousands of people to have babies.”
His voice rising with emotion, he said, “It was so sweet, and she loved it every time, and she was able to relive her own struggles and help other people avoid those struggles.” It was beautiful. It was beautiful to see.’
Smith’s last acting credit was an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1991, the year she left showbiz and founded her egg donation program.
She returned to college, earning a master’s degree in psychology from Antioch University and beginning a new profession as a marriage and family therapist.
During the last years of her life, although she sold the egg donation program, she continued to provide therapy over the Internet.
Maguire revealed that when she passed away this week, Smith “had no pain and she passed away peacefully with me and Nicky and Miranda, her children, holding her hand and kissing her head and telling her how much we loved him”.