David E. Smith


The Reverend David Emerson Smith, 79, died peacefully surrounded by his family at his home in Vineyard Haven on May 4 after a short illness.

David was born on August 9, 1931 in Norwood to the late Fannie and Hubert Smith and attended schools in Westwood. He obtained his B.A. in Psychology from Boston University in 1954 and his Master’s in Divinity at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1957. David obtained his Masters in education and counselling from Syracuse University in 1970.

Following his ordination, David moved to the Island with his wife, Nancy, and son John to serve as Associate Rector at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown where he served until 1959. His son Michael was born while on the Island. In 1959, David and his family moved to Scituate and he became the Rector at St. Luke’s Church in Scituate where he served until 1963. His daughters, Laura and Paula, were born while they lived there.

In 1963, the family moved to Fayetteville, N. Y., where David became the Rector at Trinity Episcopal Church. His son Tom was born there. While in N.Y., the family made the long annual summer pilgrimages to their house on Chappaquiddick packed in a station wagon full of kids and animals.

In 1969, David made a career change and the family moved back to the Island full-time. David served as the Director of the Island Youth Center for the next two years where he touched the lives of many Island teens.

Concurrently, David was a psychologist at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services/M.V. and the Nantucket Mental Health Center. He was instrumental in the opening of the Nantucket clinic. He became the director of outpatient services for the Mass. Department of Mental Health in Pocasset in 1979. David finished his career in private practice in Falmouth and on the Island where he practiced until his retirement and his move to Bath, Maine.

David’s commitment to equal rights for all began early with his march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama. He was committed to the communities in which he lived.

David served on the Edgartown Volunteer Fire Department for several years while on the Island. While in Maine, he served as a volunteer for the United Way for many years where he helped establish a framework to ensure elderly women living on their own had assistance and mentoring through the remainder of their lives. David also was a Hospice volunteer and always took the most difficult cases. David was recognized as Maine Sheriff Association’s Citizen of the Year in 2004 for his “significant contributions to the elderly citizens of Sagadahoc County.” David provided pastoral counseling as needed in association with his parish in Bath, Grace Episcopal Church.

David’s love of his family and the ocean brought him back to the Vineyard in 2007. He enjoyed many days and nights with his kids, grandkids, and grandpuppies fishing, watching sports, and woodturning.

He was extremely proud of each of his children and the way they chose to live their lives, their love and support for one another, and their accomplishments. His passion, which became his hobby, was working with Island wood to create beautiful pieces.

Since his return, he has been an active member of the congregation of Grace Episcopal Church on the Island.David is survived by his wife, Phyllis, and his sister, Susan Smith Hudson, as well as his children, John D. Smith and his partner, Debbie Manley of Edgartown, Laura DeBettencourt of Oak Bluffs, Paula Smith and her husband, Drew, of Franklin and Edgartown, and Thomas Smith and his wife, Alison, of Edgartown and his grandchildren, Megan Graham and her husband, Bryan, Lindsay Smith, Kelsey and Lucas DeBettencourt, and Conor and Liam Smith. He is also survived by his stepchildren, Kerin and Richard O’Brien. David was predeceased by his parents, his brother Gerald, his sister Jane, his son Michael and his son-in-law Peter DeBettencourt.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, May 7, at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven. Burial was private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in David’s name to Island Hospice, P.O. Box 4188, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, 111 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568-4036, or the Episcopal Relief and Development, P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.