Marcella Henley was born November 30, 1909 to Will Henley and Pearl Smith Henley on a farm in Monroe County, Iowa. Will Henley had been orphaned and had little schooling, but he worked hard as a rural laborer, for the coal mines and railroads, and with the Albia police department. Pearl Smith Henley had a grade school education and a passion for reading which she passed down to her daughter. Henley had an older step-brother, Babe, who was injured in World War I. She also had one biological brother, Bill. In 1940 Henley married Clell Smith. He died in 1995. They had no children. Smith spent her entire life in the Albia, Iowa area. Together, Marcella and Clell Smith ran a sandwich shop in Albia. During her husband's absence during World War II, Marcella Smith purchased a flower shop and greenhouse. She was always active in the Presbyterian Church; as a high school student she was nominated to attend the national convention of the Young People's Christian Union in Seattle. During World War II, she became active with the local chapter of the Order of the Rainbow for Girls as their Mother Advisor. As a senior citizen, Marcella Smith was instrumental in developing a senior center in Albia.