It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith.
B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York. She was 70.
Barbara “B.” Smith has been heralded by The New York Times as “a Renaissance woman,” by television anchor Chuck Scarborough as a “domestic goddess,” by The New York Daily News as “one of the most important African-American style mavens of all time,” and honored with a 2012 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance by Food Arts.
A broadcast talent, entrepreneurial spokesperson, and multiple award-winning recipient across a wide range of fields, Smith also earned kudos when she returned to the stage in her Off-Broadway debut in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, the award-winning play by Nora and Delia Ephron.
In 2012, Smith was inducted into the American Chef Corps, part of the U.S. Department of State’s newly-formed Diplomatic Culinary Partnership with the James Beard Foundation. She ran three B. Smith restaurants: on Theatre Row in Manhattan; in Sag Harbor, New York; and in Washington DC. But then her life changed.
In 2013, at the age of 64, Smith was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Since then, she and her husband Dan Gasby have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the disease and its effects on the African-American community in particular. Their book, written with Michael Shnayerson, Before I Forget (Harmony, 2016), is the story of her fight with Alzheimer’s and interweaves their narrative with practical and helpful advice. Readers learn about dealing with the day-to-day challenges of brain disease: the family realities, tensions, and ways of coping. They also learn about research that may lead to treatment in the next few years.
Groundbreaking Fashion Model
A native of Pennsylvania, Barbara Elaine Smith was born August 24, 1949. She began her career as a fashion model, gracing the covers of 15 magazines and becoming the one of the first African-American women on Mademoiselle’s cover in July 1976. In addition to TV commercials for Mercedes-Benz, she has served as a spokesperson for Verizon, Colgate Palmolive Oxy and McCormick’s Lawry seasonings products.
For nearly a decade, Smith hosted the nationally syndicated/cable television show B. Smith with Style that aired on NBC stations in more than 90% of U.S. households and in 40 countries. Her effervescent personality and creative ideas impacted national audiences via her appearances on programs such as Good Morning America and The Today Show. She and Gasby produced four specials for TV One, the lifestyle cable network for African-Americans.
Transcultural Lifestyle Pioneer
Smith is at the forefront of a transcultural movement. Her flair for décor, demonstrated in the ambiance of her restaurants, led to the development of her first home collection, which debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2001. The B. Smith with Style Home Collection is the first line from an African-American woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer and includes bedding, tabletop and bath products.
From duvets to doormats, Smith’s décor line continues to grow with a variety of pieces for entertaining and home and incorporates her signature “Afrasian” design concept, which merges core African and Asian elements. Today, in addition to Bed Bath & Beyone, the B. Smith brand is also available at retail partners Belk, Burlington, Home Depot, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Stein Mart.
Smith has authored three home entertaining books: B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends (Artisan Press), the first tabletop entertainment and lifestyle book by an African American; B. Smith: Rituals and Celebration (Random House), a James Beard Foundation Award nominee, one of Food & Wine’s best cookbooks of 1999 and an American Library Association Black Caucus Literary Award winner; and B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style (Simon and Schuster), with 200 recipes and flavorful tips for reducing calories.
Smith’s signature tagline “Whatever you do, do it with style!” has been on display at Smithsonian The National Museum of African American History and Culture.
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At ALZHEIMER’S & DEMENTIA CAREGIVER CENTER