Pat Smith helped Evelyn Maison bring her adopted child from Ghana to Lexington six years ago. Maison sat through a prayer service for Smith and other victims of the Comair Flight 5191 crash at the Cathedral of Christ the King yesterday evening. And then she got down on her knees and prayed for her fallen friend.
“He was a very powerful advocate for the people,” said Maison. “It’s a big loss, but I also know that he’s living on, he’s done so much good.”
Members of Smith’s and Greg Threet’s families were in attendance at the prayer service but did not speak with members of the media. During the service, Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Lexington asked the press to “respect our families that are grieving” and extended a prayer to all 49 victims as well as James M. Polehinke, the co-pilot of the flight who remained in critical condition last night at the University of Kentucky Hospital.
Evelyn Howell is not a member of the church, but came for the prayer.
“I can’t preach and I’m not a teacher ... when I can provide and help someone, it makes me feel better,” she said.
Gainer’s sermon touched upon the uncertainty of life, the vulnerability of man and the need for the community to come together and heal. “We all readily admit that our whole world can change in 15 seconds,” Gainer said. “We just never expect it to happen.”
On Florida Street, where the ninth Kentucky Habitat for Humanity house was being dedicated, those in attendance felt the cloak of grief as they remembered Smith, the organization’s national Volunteer of the Year in 2004.
Felix Ross, associate minister of Bethel Baptist Church, gave the benediction at the dedication yesterday.
He asked the crowd to join him in a prayer “that the things that (Smith) has done will not be forgotten.”
Dennis Pike Jr., a childhood friend of Smith, said he became involved in the organization 10 years ago. Since that time he has traveled with Smith to Ghana, South Africa, Mexico, Ireland, Tanzania and Sri Lanka.
Pike said that if Smith were at the dedication, he would have faded into the background.
“Because he didn’t like the spotlight,” Pike said.
Mindy Shannon Phelps brushed away tears after the completion of the dedication. Phelps is the former executive director of the organization and a longtime volunteer who had worked side-by-side with Smith rebuilding homes in Gulfport, Miss. Smith, 58, was on Flight 5191 to return to Gulfport.
“Pat was not afraid to express his joy,” said Phelps, “so I feel his joy here this evening.”