The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 29, 2013

Roger Smith dies: Arts critic loved his students, community

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — It was reviewing the arts that made Roger D. Smith famous to newspaper readers in northeast Ohio, but it was his love of helping people and serving the community that gave him the most satisfaction in life.

Smith, a teacher and school guidance counselor who for many years wrote newspaper critiques and reviews for the Ashtabula Arts Center and other area theaters, died of cancer Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic. He was 70 years old.

“He was a special person who helped many, many students throughout the years,” said Martha Shippy of Ashtabula. “He always had a tremendous sense of community and a deep concern for his fellow human beings.”

He taught at St. John High School for 15 years before moving to Germany in 1989 to work as guidance counselor on a U.S. Army military base for three years. Upon his return to the states, he taught in the Ashtabula Area City Schools District and later Geneva Area City Schools before his retirement in May of 2005.

Shippy said that as a guidance counselor, Smith was instrumental in helping many students who came from challenging home situations to have the opportunity to go to college.

After his retirement from the public school system, he joined the staff at Kent State University Ashtabula, where he taught English, study strategies and first year experience classes.

A member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church for more than 20 years, Smith was a very active member, senior warden, Eucharist minister, lector, worship leader and instrumental in starting the “Music Without Barriers” fine arts program.

Fellow parishioner Christie Dickey, of Ashtabula, said Smith took her family under his wing.

“He was such a giving person. I’ve never met anyone so giving in my whole life,” she said. “It didn’t matter what it was, he did it all.”

Dickey said Smith even helped her get her job.

“It’s all because of him,” she said, choking back tears. “He was so wonderful.”

In 2009, Smith served on the committee charged with the task of renovating St. Peter’s Parish House. Thanks to an extensive renovation and handicapped accessibility project, the hall now accommodates concerts, civic clubs and special events.

He also loved to plan and cook meals for church events or provide meals for the less fortunate, parishioners said.

“I loved the guy,” said Marguerite Seymour, church secretary. “He was a wonderful man.”

Smith’s friend and fellow parishioner, Tim Kalil, of Ashtabula, said his friend’s death is “a great, great loss.”

Kalil’s brother, Doug, said Smith’s wide-range of community service is beyond compare.

“He was the person to go to for all of St. Peter’s functions,” he said. “He had a very big, open heart.”