Loretta Helen Smith-Armstrong died on March 17 at the age of 91. She was the great-granddaughter of Robert Cakebread III and Martha Smith, who emigrated from England in 1857. The Cakebreads were lured to California by the gold fields and originally settled in Tuolumne County, where they had little success mining for precious metal.
The couple finally moved to Somersville (south of present-day Antioch) in 1866, where Robert worked in the coal mines until they closed down in 1875. Robert then formed a partnership in a sheep-raising operation that lasted until he was bought out around 1879.
The family then purchased 320 acres near Marsh Creek, 2 miles south of the John Marsh House, where they successfully raised grain. They later purchased additional acreage and two lots on Sixth Street in Antioch. They built a family home there and lived in it until they both passed away in the second decade of the 20th century.
Robert and Martha had 15 children, including Loretta Smith-Armstrong's grandfather, James Cakebread. James married Annie Smith and that union produced Alma Cakebread, their third child, who married Thomas Smith, a deputy sheriff for 24 years. Thomas and Alma were the parents of Loretta Helen Smith-Armstrong. The Smiths, Armstrongs and Cakebreads all lived and owned property in the Byron/Marsh Creek Road area, where their children attended Byron Grammar School. Five generations of the families graduated from Brentwood's Liberty Union High School.
Loretta was born in 1917, and in 1919, her sister Gerry was born. The girls walked about a mile to grammar school each day until they were given a 1928 Chevrolet by their great-uncle. Loretta drove a car from the age of 12 until she stopped driving at the age of 90. Entering Liberty Union High School as a freshman in 1930, Loretta loved school and participated in numerous activities, culminating in her election to secretary/treasurer of her senior class.
She met Hugh Armstrong, another Byron native, while a sophomore at Liberty, and graduated from high school in 1934. After a four-year courtship, she and Hugh married in 1936 in the Smith family Byron home. They honeymooned in San Francisco after taking a ferry across San Francisco Bay, where the Bay Bridge was still under construction. The couple lived in Byron until 1937, when she and Hugh moved to Brentwood after he obtained a job as a school custodian. They rented until their new home was completed on First Street and moved in exactly one year to the day prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The couple's first daughter, Shirley, was born in 1937 and the second daughter, Joyce, followed in 1939. After the birth of their children, Loretta became a housewife and doting mom. She joined a social club called the Sew & So Club in 1944. Now that Loretta has passed away, Elma Lawrence, who still lives in downtown Brentwood, is the only surviving club member. Elma is 95.
Hugh became ill in 1996 and passed away after being bed-ridden for three months. Loretta was his 24/7 caretaker, an effort that made her a heroine in the eyes of her family and friends. Loretta developed emphysema in the 1970s, had both knees replaced in the '90s, and began a sedentary lifestyle. Her favorite pastimes were solving crossword puzzles and going out for meals with her children. In 1998, she moved from her Brentwood home to Antioch's Quail Lodge, where she lived happily for eight years.
In 2007, at the age of 90, Loretta took a road trip to Las Vegas and Arizona with her daughters that she thoroughly enjoyed. It would be the last such trip she would make. She became very ill while at Quail Lodge and her daughters moved her to Eskaton in Brentwood, where they could be close by. She passed away due to a massive infection caused by a perforated colon.
Loretta Helen Smith-Armstrong will be profoundly missed by her daughters, Joyce Enos and Shirley McCall; sister Gerry Wristen; son-in-law Bill McCall; five grandsons and their wives, Russ and Julie, Randy and Debbie, Alan and Randi, Doug and Robyn and Ron and Lyn; 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Her funeral service was conducted at the Brentwood Funeral Home on March 21 and she was buried in Byron Brentwood Knightsen Union Cemetery in a family plot containing scores of her relatives and ancestors.