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Ken Smith lived his life as a peacemaker. He was pure kindness. He painted his soul-landscape large, worthy of any art gallery of the spirit. He had a most generous laugh and was an instigator of warm gatherings. He loved life and loved sharing it, unselfishly and with great gusto. Give him a kitchen and he could cook up a feast. Give him a good discussion and he could hang in for hours. Give him something new and his quest for lifelong learning kicked in. Give him loyal friends and he never gave them back. Ken Smith, 48, died Sunday at his home in Phoenix, a life gone far too soon for a man who gave so much to life. Phoenix is well aware of his generous spirit; the thousands of hours he gave to community and Jewish causes; the numerous times he opened his beautiful home to nonprofit fundraisers and events; the countless times he grabbed his checkbook to help out a worthy cause; the many hours he doted on a family that adored him. Ken learned his civic responsibilities from his parents, Herb and Evelyn Smith, whose devotion to their faith and their community left a legacy that will live forever. Theirs were big shoes to fill and Ken knew how to fill them. But perhaps his greatest legacy is that he never gave up: he believed in the possibility of international peace and understanding, even as the world seemed to be falling apart. His life's real work became the many trips to Israel and European capitals to work for the cause of world peace, and everyone who met him quickly came to realize his faith in peace was real and unflinching. He was a vice president for Project Interchange, a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization devoted to an enhanced understanding of Israel and the pursuit of Middle East peace. Ken was also a vital participant in the Shalom Hartman Institute, a research education institute based in Jerusalem whose goal is to develop new and diverse voices in the Jewish tradition. At home in Phoenix, he was again president of the Hillel Advisory Council at Arizona State University, president of the Phoenix Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, a member of the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission, a board member of the Cosanti Foundation, a board member of the Bureau of Jewish Education, and a former commissioner of the City of Phoenix Human Relations Commission. He also served on the Dean's Council for the College of Fine Arts at ASU and was the general partner of Smith Investment Partnerships. His passing has left so many people around the world feeling so robbed. But if you'd asked Kenny what he saw as his most important contribution, his family would be the first thing from his lips. The love and guidance he gave to his nieces and nephews is legendary; his devotion to his brother and sisters was unmatched. He leaves his brother Michael Smith and Marlene; his sister Debbie Saidoff and Naty, along with their children, Joanna and Joshua--now married to Yael with two children, Maayan and Emet; and his sister Corree Grodnik and Billy, along with their children, Alex and Jacob. Ken Smith was a man who will not be forgotten but who left footprints in the sand for his family and friends to follow - always toward the goal of peace; always. Services will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Beth El Congregation of Phoenix, 1118 W. Glendale Avenue. He will be buried beside his parents at Beth El Cemetery. Arrangements by Sinai Mortuary.Smith, Ken
Published in The Arizona Republic on Feb. 23, 2012