Elsa was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, where she lived until she moved to Italy where she was raised. Elsa lived in Italy until she was a young girl returning to her native land and family. She faced many challenges, but she was blessed with the ability to overcome the obstacles of life.
Elsa gave birth to her only son, Gregory on August 6, 1968. A few years later she took a big step and moved to America. Elsa settled in Philadelphia, PA, where she became a fashion coordinator. Later Elsa started her own business as a hair braider. She braided the hair of many celebrities and her hair designs were featured in a number of magazines.
Elsa took another big step, by moving to the Los Angeles area to pursue her career, only to find a number of new challenges to overcome, such as homelessness, substance use, depression, and HIV/AIDS. Through it all, Elsa continued to love others. Her heart was pure as gold and her giving was a true testament of who she was. Everywhere Elsa went, she told people that she lived in a shelter for homeless women with AIDS. She didn't care who they were or under what circumstances. Elsa was a gentle yet bold AIDS activist and a strong advocate. She was an active member of the positive-womens' leadership group here in Los Angeles. At the 1999 National Women and HIV Conference, Elsa Smith went to the hospital with Maria Peach. She stayed by her side, giving her comfort and support until Maria's family could arrive from Arizona. We were all very sad when Maria died, and we were also very concerned for Elsa's well-being. Elsa would simply say: "We are the leaders, if we don't do this work, who is going to do it?"
We all loved Elsa, her smile, the shine in her eyes, and the kindhearted way she lived her life. Elsa was our friend, our client, and our "African Princess." On Saturday, March 3, 2001: A band of angels carried her to her resting place.
Now it's time for her to rest. Elsa leaves behind a son, Gregory Elsa, of Philadelphia, PA, her extended-family at Agape House, her extended community family and a host of friends and loved ones.