In Memoriam: Dick Smith

Dick Smith on one of his regular public walks for Soldiers Delight.  He was a popular field guide and trip leader.

Dick Smith on one of his regular public walks for Soldiers Delight. He was a popular field guide and trip leader.

I am very sad to be sharing news of Dick Smith’s sudden passing while on vacation in Idaho, shared with us by his son Warren.  Dick has been a fixture of the mid-Atlantic butterfly community and his expertise and attention to documenting Maryland’s butterfly fauna will be sorely missed.  So many of us have been the recipients of his generosity in helping ID or find butterflies in Maryland and neighboring states.
I worked very closely with Dick every spring to update the “new sightings” and “butterflies of unknown status” data sheets as we prepared them for posting on LepLog; I’ll miss this close collaboration and hope to ensure this project continues to honor his memory.
Below is the note that Warren sent us; feel free to reach out to the family and share your appreciation for Dick’s work in our community.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Warren Smith <>
Date: Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 1:27 PM
Subject: Richard (Dick) Smith has unexpectedly passed

Hi all. 

I know email is not the best forum to receive sad news, but knowing how much my father loved his lepodopterist studies, I went on to his computer and captured your emails to alert what I am sure are some of his favorite people of his surprising and sudden passing.
Below is his informal obituary. Service details will be provided soon but will most likely be in northern Baltimore county. Please email or call me directly if you have any questions or concerns. My cell phone number is 703 829 0371.

Richard (Dick) Smith, 1944-2016

It is with indescribable sadness that we announce the passing of our incredible father, friend and role model Richard (Dick) H. Smith, Jr. of Columbia, Maryland. He died this morning at 6am at only 71 years of age from complications sustained after sudden cardiac arrest while vacationing in Driggs, Idaho. Dick remained strong and active throughout his life. He loved spending time with his family, and enjoyed going for morning and evening runs, especially in natural spaces like those that surrounded his Idaho vacation home. In his last moments, he was truly doing something that he loved.

Dick was born on September 7, 1944 near Baltimore, MD, weighing in at a robust 10 lbs according to the farm’s chicken scale. He received his Bachelors of Science in 1966 and his PhD in 1971 from Johns Hopkins University. He lived most of his life in Columbia, MD where he worked as an electrical engineer for the Applied Physics Lab for over 40 years. He recently retired in 2015. Throughout his life, he balanced his interest in physics with a love of nature. Dick championed environmental stewardship and was incredibly active in the Maryland Entomological Society and the Lepidopterist Society throughout the Delmarva area. He was the Secretary of the Maryland Entomological Society. (MES).
Lepidoptery is the study of butterflies and moths, and Dick was known as an authority on them. He ran outdoor learning expeditions and openly shared his logs and observations with others who studied these beautiful, elegant creatures. He was coordinator of butterfly species records for Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia for the USGS NPWRC website, “Butterfiles and Moths of North America.” He compiled a comprehensive listing of the resident, annually migrating and immigrant butterflies of the Washington, DC area, which he described as “an accurate and realistic representation of what most butterfly enthusiasts, with some luck and perseverance over a period of several years, could actually find in the DC area.” Another enthusiast summed up Dick’s presence in this community, thanking him not only for his “many years of butterfly knowledge and experience”, but also “for offering brilliant guidance, thought-provoking discussions, and incredible patience in answering my incessant questions.”
He is survived by his wife Gloria and their two children, Warren and his wife Billie Jo of Ashburn, VA, and Michelle Smith and her husband Jason of Carbondale, CO; and by two grandsons, Liam of Ashburn and Kilian of Carbondale. Close relatives include Gloria’s sister Lorraine Kulbicki and her children, Elizabeth and Kathyrn; Gloria’s brother Bernard Style, his wife Mary Beth and children, Mary Grace and Matthew.    Service dates will be provided soon. Friends may call or email Warren or Michelle.

Warren Smith — Skype: warrensmithd <<

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7 Responses to In Memoriam: Dick Smith

  1. Thanks, Rick. A sad story. I’ll forward this to Stephanie in RMNP.


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Rick says:

    Very saddened by this news. Dave and I were very fond of Dick. Ditto to all your comments. He was an unusually loving, kind and patient person. During Dave’s last conversation with him, he mentioned he was living on borrowed time since there was a family history of cardiac problems. Sorry he had just two years of retirement. Gives one pause… A life well lived.

    Sheryl Pollock

  3. Rick says:

    Wow, sadness here too. Dick was a role model for the new generation of aspiring naturalists. He was not only a seasoned lepidopterologist, but also understood those among us who chose to appreciate and study butterflies in their own different ways. In this way, Dick was a bridge between all: lepidopterologists, butterfly watchers, naturalists, photographers, government biologists, academia, and young students. I wish there were many more like him!

    Harry Pavulaan

  4. Rick says:

    At this age, the news of an old friend’s death is no longer a surprise. But learning about Dick Smith’s passing was more than the usual sad blow. He was an important mentor and friend, who taught me most all of what I know about butterflies, as he did for many of us.

    Dick’s neighborhood was the entire state of Maryland. His decades-long search for the state’s rare and threatened butterflies leaves an unequaled butterfly database, which will inform the state’s butterfly conservation efforts for years to come. Dick led dozens of field trips, some right right up to his death, for beginners as well as those with more expertise. He taught all with extraordinary kindness and patience. Dick enthusiastically helped launch the Washington Area Butterfly Club, for many years our lone expert. In the field, he charged without hesitation into a steamy swamps, scrambled up rocky hillsides, and waded into chest-high grass and tangled brambles, searching for that one specimen to prove the species still flew in Maryland. Dick remembered with fond appreciation.

    Pat Durkin, from Maine

  5. Rick says:

    Extremely sad news; Dick was a friend to all, a brilliant lepidopterist, and a key club member. Please provide details of his service, if it will be public, to this list serve. Thank you.

    Laura Farron

  6. Rick says:

    It’s hard to say when I first encountered the wonderful Mr. Smith. It was probably via email way back in the early 2000’s or even before. Dick found out about a White Admiral that my partner in crime, Kathleen Lathrop, had seen in Bath County, VA. I think this was around 2001. Well, Dick was so excited that he found my email address, and with his (expert) help we added it to a list of rarities for Virginia and the BAMONA website (in it’s infancy then).

    Over the years Dick always got very interested and enthusiastic when I would post about butterflies we have had in our gardens in Rohrersville (we moved there in 2004 from close to DC)… Giant Swallowtail, another White Admiral (hybrid form), Clouded Skipper…

    I went on a trip to the Eastern Shore in the early 2000s that Dick led and finally met him. He showed me my first Great Purple Hairstreak and several other life leps on that trip. I rode out to the Shore with him and as I was just beginning to chase butterflies (I started my natural history adventures like many of you, I’m sure, as primarily a birder) he shared his knowledge with me on the drive and with such an unassuming and easygoing way that I immediately knew what a great human being and entomologist he was.

    Later, as I would become active and many times too strident on environmental issues affecting butterflies in Maryland, Dick would often calm me down “just sleep on it and you’ll probably feel different in the morning, or eat least better and calmer…”

    I always looked forward to Dick’s trips at Soldier’s Delight. We were there this past spring on a cold, windy day when no rare skippers were found, but Dick had a great time nonetheless (and so did we).

    That’s just classic Dick Smith. Expert, patient and ready to share his knowledge in his own unassuming way. Oh, how I miss him already.

    Dick, if I could be a tenth of the person and naturalist you are, I would, I really would.

    Frank Boyle
    Broken Wallet Farm
    Rohrersville, MD

  7. Rick says:

    It is with extraordinary shock and sadness that I am forwarding this email from Dick Smith’s son Warren. Dick died suddenly and unexpectedly while on vacation in Idaho with family. I will forward more details as they become available.

    Dick was a huge part of the butterflying community and will be irreplaceable. Besides being immensely knowledgeable, he was one of the gentlest and most patient people I have known.

    Linda Hunt

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