Harriet Holmes Smith, 81, of Coatesville, a former supervisor in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Probation and Parole Department who later worked at the local hospital and health-care employees union District 1199c, died of a pulmonary embolism Saturday, Nov. 13, at Chester County Hospital in West Chester.

At District 1199c, Ms. Smith worked for about 25 years for its Training & Upgrading Fund in workforce development. She coordinated U.S. Department of Labor job training grants to help out-of-work union members. She also helped community members interested in joining the health-care field, said her son William Smith.

Although her undergraduate degree was in biology, Ms. Smith worked her first professional job at a school for troubled boys in New York, later earning a master’s degree in social work from Temple University.

“She could have done anything else,” her son said. “She had offers from several pharmaceutical companies where she could have made a ton more money. But social work is what she loved doing.”

Over the years, Ms. Smith also taught at Camden County Community College and worked for the Philadelphia Bail Fund.

“She always had a passion for helping people,” said Shawn Smith, her younger son.

After retiring, Ms. Smith continued to work as a consultant to District 1199c. Her older son said she also lived and worked for a year in Windhoek, Namibia, where she taught at the Windhoek College of Education under the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help Teachers for Africa program, an initiative launched by the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan of Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church.

In addition to her teaching in Namibia, Ms. Smith volunteered in Guatemala, working to build safer indoor stoves for Indigenous people. She loved to travel and also visited China, Cuba, India, Europe, and Belize.

“We could not have been prouder of our mother,” William Smith said. “She had a drive to carry on, and she constantly pushed us to be better at whatever we wanted to do.”

Shawn Smith said she was firm but loving. “She instilled a lot of qualities in us,” he said. “She wanted us to learn to be self-disciplined. But she was also very nurturing and wanted us to get a good education.”

Harriet Holmes Smith was born in Mineola, N.Y., on Aug. 29, 1940, to Herman Lee Holmes and Harriet Odessa Key Holmes. She was the second of six children.

When she was 4 or 5, her parents moved to a South Carolina farm, where both parents worked. In addition, her father worked at a stone quarry.

She was a 1958 graduate of Martha Schofield Senior High School in Aiken, S.C., and received her bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State University.

After college, she returned to New York and eventually worked at the Wiltwyck School for Boys, a residential treatment center in Yorktown.

There, she met and married a coworker, William Thomas Smith. When the marriage ended in divorce, Ms. Smith moved to Philadelphia and pursued her master’s degree. She held a number of jobs, including at the probation and parole department.

William Smith said his mother joined the Army Reserves while raising three children, serving on weekends and summers for nine years. She retired as an Army major.

An excellent cook, she loved to entertain, and was also active in politics.

Days before her death, Ms. Smith hosted a reception in her home for State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, William said.

In addition to her sons, Ms. Smith is survived by a daughter, Melanie Reneau; six grandchildren; three sisters; one brother; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and friends. One brother died earlier.

The family asks that charitable contributions be made to the Equal Justice Initiative at eji.org in her name.

A funeral was held in Coatesville on Nov. 20.