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By Steve Steiner
Executive Editor 

Goodbye, Dwaine. You Are Missed

 

Last updated 4/22/2020 at 11:04am

Dwaine Smith Jr.

I have to admit, because of COVID-19, to a great degree it is frustrating launching BartowNews.net.

Because I am in the category most at risk (senior citizen, type 2 diabetic, high blood pressure, and having had two heart stents placed) --- plus due to certain injuries, unable to exercise as I formerly did, thus my weight is not where it should be --- I basically have self-quarantined. I don't go out unless it's absolutely essential, and that means food shopping.

I am making the effort to lift BartowNews.net off the ground, and it is challenging. Unlike the past, when I could put mileage to the car, or shoe leather to the pavement, for the time being I am restricted to contacting either through phone calls or via social media.

It is my policy not to lift quotes from social media sites unless I first gain permission. I believe it makes for decent --- and more importantly --- ethical journalism.

I raise this because I have not been able to write an article on a person who recently died, a person I came to know and treasure, through my job at the Bartow Church Service Center thrift store: Dwaine Smith Jr.

The tributes about him posted on Facebook are a glowing testimony to him, so since I could not get a response from those I reached out to, I will simply add my own.

ADIOS, MI AMIGO

Being new to the thrift store, first as a volunteer and later a staff member, I didn't know what to make of Dwaine whenever he came in.

He was loud, and he sometimes would engage others in lengthy conversation, often on politics. On the political spectrum, he leaned to the conservative side.

Because of the composition of those who patronize the thrift store, I could and did observe the reactions of others, particularly those who appeared to disagree but chose not to engage.

But Dwaine wasn't someone who was dogmatic. As I grew to know him I came to realize his approach to life was based on the bedrock of common sense. It was a common sense based on love and compassion.

He was dedicated. He loved sharing his experiences and his observations gleaned through a well-lived life. Whether it was youth baseball, popular music, the way he and I were raised and taught versus today's methods and restrictions, his veterinary practice, at the core of all it was his joy. And, oh yes, the University of Florida Gators.

Dwaine was a regular at the thrift store. Sooner or later, every Wednesday, he would come in. Sometimes he would be in early, other times not until later in the day.

Then one day he stopped coming in, and it would be months before I again saw him in the store. When he did return he explained his lengthy absence was because he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

The first time back he lifted his beloved Gator baseball cap and showed the scar. It was ugly, but he took no mind of it. In fact, he'd show it to anyone in the store.

Somehow, I think he'd show it as a mixture of gratitude it had been discovered and treated, yet also because he took some sort of mischievous delight.

Regardless, Dwaine's visits were always a delight for me and for him. Whether it was something related to the Gators, or Starbucks (I never did figure that one out), or something for his daughter, wife or the household in general, his face would always light up, almost as if he was again a boy on Christmas day.

He also delighted when asked, usually by me, as well as others in the store who knew him, "How are you doing?" Dwaine, with a smile, always replied, "I'm vertical."

About a month to month-and-a-half-ago he spoke of an upcoming MRI session, one that was supposed to have been conducted earlier and had been rescheduled. He didn't come in the following Wednesday, or ever again.

I called his veterinary practice, and left a message expressing my concern and hoping he was okay. About a week-and-a-half ago, I drove to his practice. I spoke with the owner of the pet grooming parlor next door. She had not heard or seen him and didn't have a number for him. I left with the request that if she did hear from him to let her know I had asked.

Then last week I learned Dwaine had died.

Dwaine, you may no longer be "vertical." but in my book and the books and hearts of many,you will always be upright and upstanding.

Thanks for blessing me and the many others with your presence.

(In case you wonder, the odometer was nearly half-a-million miles on my 1998 Mercury Grand Marquis before I bought my current vehicle three years ago; the Mercury had almost 90,000 miles when I bought it in 2000. Also, it was the original engine.)

Author Bio

Steve Steiner, Executive Editor

Steve came out of a two-year retirement to helm BartowNews.net. Following a career in journalism/advertising/public relations --- at one point being a partner in an advertising/PR agency --- he shifted professions and focused on food service and hospitality before returning to journalism. As a journalist, rose from reporter to sections editor to managing/executive editor with newspapers in North Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. He is enjoying restoring a quality news site for his adopted hometown. Send him your story ideas.

 

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