On Saturday, April 4th, 2020, Bob Smith of Bear Creek, PA died from complications with pneumonia (non Covid-19 related) at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. He was 75 years old.
Robert Alan Smith was born in Philadelphia to parents Harry and Edythe Troyen Smith. He grew up in Havertown with his brother, Gary, and attended public schools there.
In 1965 Bob graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Penn State. Drawn to social justice issues, Bob then joined the Peace Corps. He was in the first wave of volunteers assigned to the Ivory Coast, West Africa, where he taught health education, sanitation and water resource management in rural villages. It’s also where he met his wife, Ellen Perna. They were married in Virginia in 1970.
Following the Peace Corps Bob started a summer camp under the auspices of the Society of Friends in the British West Indies. He then attended Columbia University and received a Master's in Health Administration. In 1971 he and Ellen moved to Bear Creek and Bob began a 45 year career consulting in healthcare administration. Bob founded Susquehanna American and National Healthcare Inc. which provided consulting and management services to local and state-wide personal care facilities and nursing homes.
Bob built National Pharmacy Inc. with partner Charles Gelso. He helped develop the Wilkes/Hahnemann Medical Education Program and the Family Practice Residency of the Wyoming Valley. He was a founding partner of Keystone Health Systems.
Bob assisted with the merger of local hospitals and with Geisinger’s entry into the Wyoming Valley. He helped found the NE Kidney Transplant Registry. He also helped develop the first local Master's program in Health Administration at Marywood University.
Bob’s career always had a focus on community service. His contributions to the Wyoming Valley began at the time of the Agnes Flood and continued throughout his nearly fifty years of living here. Notably he was President of the Luzerne County Human Services Advisory Council; he served on the State Board of Licensure for Nursing Homes Administrators; and he was a member of the American College of Hospital Administrators.
Bob was dedicated to his local community beyond his professional life as well. He served on the boards of the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Services, Elan Gardens and Ecumenical Enterprises. He was Chairman for the United Jewish Appeal and Jewish Federation Appeal several times. He served on the Temple B'nai B'rith school board and as Temple B'nai B'rith President during its 150th anniversary.
In Bear Creek, Bob was a Cub Scout Pack Master and an involved parent at his sons’ schools. He was a long time member of the Lions Club and a successful fundraiser for them. Bob also helped raise funds for a new dam in Bear Creek Village and helped preserve Bear Creek property with the North Branch Land Trust. He was famous for running an annual scavenger hunt for the kids of Bear Creek Village, a tradition that has lasted over forty-five years.
In retirement Bob regularly travelled back to the Caribbean, spending time on the small island of Anguilla. He became an accomplished poet. A few years ago he was the only amateur poet accepted into a New England poetry conference. Later his work was published. Bob enjoyed studying Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. He survived two different cancers. Recently he served as a plaintiff in a PA Supreme Court case for fair districting in the state, and earned the Thaddeus Stevens Defender of Democracy award from Common Cause, Pennsylvania.
Bob is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Ellen H. Perna Smith; son, Benjamin and wife Stephanie and their two children, Asher and Maya, of Washington DC; son, Nate and wife, Lizz Hudson, of Los Angeles, CA; and brother, Gary E. Smith and wife, Susan Olsen of Putnam Valley, NY.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there can be no public services at this time. A memorial service will be held at a date to be announced. Arrangements by Rosenberg Funeral Chapel Inc., Wilkes-Barre.
The family would appreciate condolences be sent to PO Box 12, Bear Creek, PA 18602. In lieu of flowers please make donations in Bob’s name to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund at Temple B’nai B’rith in Kingston (570.287.9606) or The Public Interest Law Center (pubintlaw.org).
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Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund at Temple B’nai B’rith
408 Wyoming Ave., Kingston PA 18704
The Public Interest Law Center