Memorial for Robert Lowell Smith

A personal campaign sponsored by Melissa Handley

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July 13, 1938 - April 4, 2016

Stories people tell of Robert Lowell Smith usually involve his love of music, his love of exploring the world, or his sense of humor, often with the three being in combination.  One of his mother's favorite stories was the time when he was a young boy and she and her sister took him, his sister and his cousins on a trip to Mammoth Cave.  The entire trip there and back he sang and by the end of that trip the family was thoroughly well informed as to the antics of  Mary and her Little Lamb.  

His mother also told stories of him exploring the wooded areas around their home from dusk till dawn.  Since he loved western shows such as The Cisco Kid, one can imagine him creeping through the woods on the trail of cattle rustlers.  One time in the winter he went explorations took him to a frozen pond, and he tried to go ice "skating" with his dog Laddie and fell fell through the ice.  Fortunately Laddie made a racket barking and he was rescued by some passers-by, just like a real life version of another favorite show, Lassie!      

While in the Navy he was stationed at the naval base at Rota, Spain where he met his future wife, Maria Pilar Falder Fernandez de Bobadilla.  While in Spain he bought a VW Bug and Maria's father enjoyed telling about how the entire family (8-10 people) would pile into that car and drive off.  For their honeymoon, Robert and Maria took a road trip through beautiful southern Spain.    

Back in the states, the travels continued.  He took Maria and their daughter Melissa on road trips to visit family, and to places such as the Smoky Mountains, Niagara Falls, Indian Lake in Ohio, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  There was an epic road trip one summer that took them through Tennessee, Mississippi, New Orleans, all the way down to Galveston.  Riding in the car often meant singing to pass the time.  He knew a wide variety of sing along songs and would take the lead in belting them out.

Robert loved children.  He would take Melissa and her cousins on "goony bird" rides, thrilling them with stories of the dread creature; and the neighborhood children would come and ask if Uncle Bob could come out to play.  Had he chosen to pursue that path, he likely would have made an exceptional teacher, having the ability to inspire wonder and curiosity in the world around us and possessing a natural kindness and humor that kids respond to.  

The tragedy is that Robert developed mental illness and his life became constrained.   The travels stopped, and the necessity of having to be in treatment defined the later years of his life.  

His love of music and old movies provided a source of escape.  And spending time with him, one would often get a glimpse of his kindness, wit and brilliant mind.  About a month ago he was asked by his son-in-law Keith, "So Dad, was there ever a politician that you admired?'  Without missing a beat he said with a completely straight face "Well...there was Richard Nixon."  In a stunned silence, Melissa and Keith just looked at one another, not sure if he was serious or not.  Then he gave the biggest mischievous grin and laughed his wonderful laugh, tickled pink at having successfully pulled their legs.   

So while there were behavioral changes that were often challenging,  who he was at his core would still shine through.  While we lament the effects mental illness had on his life, we honor who he was as the man we loved and we hope that this memorial fund will provide some support in finding improved treatments for mental illness.

Robert now has found the peace he so deserved.   Our dearest wish is that he now has the freedom to embark on a new grand adventure.  We imagine him driving in a classic car with Laddie by his side, visiting friends and family and the sites he enjoyed, all the while engaged in glorious song. 

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