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Darell J. Smith, M.D., of Westerville, Ohio, (previously of Zanesville, Ohio) born Sept. 11, 1930, in Nashport, Ohio, died Jan. 27, 2024, from complications of COVID-19. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Barbara; son, Peter Smith (Sue) of Westerville, Ohio; daughters, Trudy Shelley (Jim) and Maggie Smith (Gregg Williams) both of Indianapolis, Ind.; and five grandchildren, Emma Smith of Indianapolis, Ind., Carter Smith of Boston, Mass., Simon Kuntz, Caroline Kuntz, and Sofia Shelley, all of Indianapolis, Ind.
As a physician, father, grandfather (papa), and husband, his time on earth was devoted to treating people who battled mental illness, supporting his family in all aspects of their lives, and to the pursuit of lifelong learning. The book by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, was one of his favorites, and he often cited writings of the philosopher Lao Tzu. He found his gift of writing during retirement as the author of eshrinkblog.com.
The following obituary, written by Dr. Smith on his 90th birthday, showcases his personality, dry sense of humor, and gratitude for life through his knack for storytelling.
“One would think that the midst of the Great Depression, September 11, 1930, would not have been a good time to be born, yet it worked out amazingly well for a long skinny 13-pound baby boy with big ears. Dr. Wells, who presided at the event, said: ‘Look at those ears, he’s a little Spinney’ (the nickname of my grandfather). Indeed, I was fortunate to survive my first day in daylight since my father, whose eighth-grade education hardly qualified him as an anesthesiologist, was charged with administering ether to my mother during the delivery. I am told that Dr. Wells committed suicide a short time later, but I deny responsibility.
Due to The Depression, my early years were a difficult time for my parents, a fact of which I was blissfully unaware. But for the grace of God, I would not be here to write this, for twice during the first five years of my life, my parents and brother could have witnessed my death. The first was when I was struck and thrown into the air by a car and the second was when I fell into a swollen river—but rescued by my father who dove in after me even though he couldn’t swim.
Our family moved frequently. Consequently, I was always the new kid in school. I was also taller than any of the other kids, and skinny enough that I identified with Ichabod Crane, the character in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and I received more than my share of bullying.
At the ripe old age of 16, I met the girl who would become the light of my life. She lived only a couple of houses down the street, and the story of our meeting has been repeated over and over to our kids. Later she would complete nurse’s training as I worked my way through college at Ohio University, then support us as I attended medical school at Ohio State University (OSU). This was followed by a three-year stint as a general duty medical officer in the Navy and six years practicing family medicine in Cambridge, Ohio.
In spite of the fact that by this time we had accumulated four beautiful children, I decided to pursue my interest in psychiatry, and entered residency training at my alma mater, OSU, where I was soon labeled the old man of the class, and thus selected to be Chief Resident. On completion of training, I accepted a position as Assistant Professor. Teaching was a wonderful experience, and I suspect I learned more from my students than they did from me. After six years in academia, I was approached by people in my hometown of Zanesville who were in desperate need of a psychiatrist to head up their mental health center. After two years as director there, I concluded that I was not a very good politician and left to start a private practice which grew rapidly containing at its peak five psychiatrists, one psychologist, and three social workers. I retired briefly at age 70 but grew restless and returned to work for another 12 years. After retirement, at Maggie’s encouragement, I managed to keep out of Barb’s hair by writing a blog about whatever thoughts entered a tired old brain.
As the years passed, the losses mounted for as they say in traditional obituaries, I was preceded in death by my father Carl Edward Smith, mother Laura Marie (Van Horn) Smith, brother James Dean Smith, his wife Dorothy Jean (Hursey) Smith, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. The saddest of all was the loss of my first born, Molly Gail, in 2014, to the Smith curse of cancer. Her words “I don’t want to die, Daddy” continue to haunt me, but I am hopeful that by the time you read this we will be sharing some laughs together once again.
To quote Garrison Keillor, my progeny who survive me are: “All above average.” As a matter of fact, they are all well above average. They are in addition to Molly Gail, children: Peter Trent, Trudy Allison, and Margaret Paige, grandchildren: Emmeline Barbara, Simon Mack Kuntz, Carter Darell Smith, Caroline Paige Kuntz, and Sofia Allison Shelley. They are all beautiful people both inside and out. I am immensely proud of them for they all share and live by the values I treasure. Also surviving is that cute little chick from down the street with the nice derriere who became my lover, best friend, and mother of my children. She took those wedding vows about ‘good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health’ seriously, for we had plenty of each, and she was always there with me and for me.
What a lucky person I have been. With more than 90 years on this planet, I received more than the usual allotted time. The joys I felt have been so numerous and intense as to nearly blot out the sorrow—even more amazing considering I have seen horrible suffering, as my best of times were the worst of times for millions of other people on the earth. As my time to leave draws near I seem to have little fear of death but hope that my dying can be peaceful. The difficult part will be leaving those wonderful human beings I love.”
Family will receive friends from 1:00-2:00 P.M. on Saturday, February 10, 2024, at the BOLIN-DIERKES FUNERAL HOME & CREMATORY, 1271 BLUE AVENUE, ZANESVILLE, OHIO, where a Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 P.M. with Rev. Deborah Bowsher officiating. Following services, the family will receive guests at The Virtues Golf Club, in the Wilson Room, located at One Long Drive, Nashport, Ohio, 43830. A private burial will take place at Zanesville Memorial Park, Zanesville, at a later date.