Crash of Flight 5191

Eternal Habitat: Tireless volunteer Pat Smith is laid to rest

Along with bread and wine, a hammer and an African scepter were brought to the communion table at Pat Smith’s funeral yesterday.

Smith, 58, died last Sunday with 48 others when Comair Flight 5191 crashed near Blue Grass Airport. He was returning to Gulfport, Miss., where he was managing a project to build 13 houses for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

More than 400 people came to Smith’s funeral at Cathedral of Christ the King to remember the man who was known as “Chief Smith” in Africa and as a tireless volunteer for Habitat for Humanity here.

Smith had taken trips to Ghana, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Mississippi and other places for Habitat for Humanity. He was Habitat’s National Volunteer of the Year in 2004, and was on the board of the local branch and Habitat for Humanity International.

It was work that his friends could not imagine him leaving behind, even in heaven.

“Pat, organize the angels like you did us,” said Rev. Charles Howell, who twice went to Ghana with Smith. “And help build the homes, the simple spaces of dignity, that we hope to inhabit someday.”

The Lexington Habitat for Humanity has created an endowment fund in Smith’s memory. The fund will help continue Smith’s work for Habitat, locally and internationally.

Grant Phelps, executive director of Lexington Habitat, recalled how Smith and his family spent Thanksgiving 2004 working on a house in Lexington so that another family would have a home before Christmas.

For Phelps, Smith was a role model, mentor, boss and best friend. “Pat’s spirit will always be nudging us toward the next great idea,” he said.

Greg Powell, a childhood friend, spoke of Smith’s perpetual smile, his love of his family and his recruiting for Habitat work. Recently, Smith told Powell that he was organizing a Thanksgiving trip to Mississippi. They’d sleep on the floor and do lots of work.

“’I’ve got the whole family going,’” Smith told Powell. “’Get yours, too, and we’ll have a ball.’”

At the end of the service, Lexington Bishop Ronald Gainer said a blessing over Smith’s coffin. Jean Smith, his widow, leaned on her children.

“May the choirs of angels welcome you,” Gainer said as thin smoke from incense filled the entry to the church. “May you have eternal rest.”

Pat Smith

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