Remembering Rob Smith
Rob Smith passed away on April 14 after a two-year battle with cancer. Rob was deeply committed to service, and he left a promising engineering career to join ACE as part of our 11th cohort. Rob was a member of the Los Angeles East community, and he taught at Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School.
Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland.For the past 11 years, Rob taught math at
. Rob led by example, choosing to make his impact through action over words. Originally from Havertown, Pennsylvania, he was affectionately nicknamed Delco by his fellow Zahm Hall residents. Rob's faith was an example to all who knew him. He was an all-time great giver of the sign of peace at Zahm Hall Mass, where his hugs would swallow people up. He was kind and generous, except on the Bookstore Basketball court, where he was a dominating presence.
Kevin Somok, a fellow member of ACE 11 (Austin) who taught at Don Bosco with Rob, shared these thoughts with their students in the wake of Rob’s death.
Like all of you, I’ve been grieving the loss of our dear friend and teacher, Mr. Rob Smith. At Don Bosco, Mr. Smith has long been a beloved teacher, coach, youth minister, and mentor. For me, he has also been a classmate, a neighbor, and a close personal friend. Fr. Dieunel asked me to share a few words with all of you this morning about Mr. Smith.
For nearly 11 years—and until his physical strength failed him—Mr. Smith poured himself into Don Bosco in a singular way. He always arrived to school early, before 6:30am, and he was often the last teacher to head home in the evening. And Mr. Smith made his hours in the building count. He pushed his students to strive for academic excellence and indeed sought every year to refine his craft as a math teacher, yet he knew better than anyone that he taught *students* and not merely an academic subject. For me, he was the living embodiment of St. John Bosco’s belief that the young must not only be loved, but they must also *know* that they are loved. All of us saw how Mr. Smith showed his students that they are loved: his former and current students speak of his almost supernatural patience in class, his uncommon ability to listen before or after class, and his willingness to give his time for student activities and tutoring. He was also well known for greeting every student with a smile and a handshake first thing in the morning as long as his health permitted it. He spent countless prep periods helping alumni with their college math courses—but of course those alumni were returning not only for academic help but also to catch up with a trusted friend and mentor.
Let me share one story that appeared on social media. An alumnus from the Class of 2011 posted that, since his graduation, he’d received a happy birthday e-mail from Mr. Smith every year on his birthday until this year. This alumnus’s birthday was Sunday, April 14, the day that Mr. Smith passed to eternal life. It turns out that Mr. Smith kept in touch with all alumni through this practice, which I learned only recently.
It has been difficult for me—and for all of us—to see Mr. Smith suffer through his long illness, particularly in his final weeks, and to see his parents helping him to carry his cross. Why does God permit such bad things to happen to good people? This is a question that the Book of Job explores in the Old Testament, and the question defies any easy and satisfying explanation. But I’m consoled with the confident hope that Mr. Smith is now enjoying his eternal reward. I’ve also been comforted by the hope that we’ll meet again. Let my borrow a quotation from St. Francis de Sales that that Ms. Stacy recently shared with me: “Friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off.”
Until that day when we meet again, may we all be inspired to emulate those qualities that made Mr. Smith such a beloved friend and teacher. Let us live each day well, let us be patient with each other, let us be kind. Let us love God and one another ever more intensely. May this be the final lesson that we learn from Mr. Smith.
Rob was a loving son, brother, uncle, teacher, friend, and godfather. He will be missed greatly by all who knew him. Donations may be made to the Don Bosco Cristo Rey scholarship fund in Rob’s honor.