Following a challenging struggle with depression, Edward J. "Ned" Smith, Jr., (Naed), 52, ended his life at his home in Harrisburg on Friday, May 10, 2019.
A native of Wilkes-Barre and a resident of Harrisburg, Ned was well known in both cities and internationally for his tireless commitment to promote peace and build strong communities over several decades.
Our family asks that you open your heart and offer compassion without judgement for Ned and those who suffer from mental illness. Ned was a servant leader who was dealing with depression for some time, leaving behind a bereaved community, family, and friends.
Over the last several days, we have received an outpouring of condolences from friends and neighbors who have recounted their most heartfelt memories and stories of Ned. Many have shared that Ned ended every conversation with a simple: “Peace”. And so we say it to you now, Ned, Peace – with the hope you’ve finally found it.
Born March 13, 1967 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Ned was the son of the late Edward J. Smith, Sr. and Dorothy Ann (Whitonis) Smith. He grew up in the Mayflower section of Wilkes-Barre, PA where he could often be found playing with his friends at the Huber Street neighborhood park across from his family’s home. He was a member of St. Patrick’s Church, the Heights Packers mini-football team, and later played varsity football as a linebacker in high school.
Ned graduated from the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial High School in 1985 and received his Bachelor of Sociology from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. During college, Ned was drawn to prayer and contemplation. In addition to sociology studies, Ned was a student of theology and attended Catholic Mass daily. He volunteered in the early programs of the Peace and Justice Center, directed by Sister Constance Kozel, RSM. He credited Sister Kozel with encouraging him to follow his interests in peacemaking. It was in the chapel at King’s College where Ned encountered Catholic Worker literature. He learned about the famed social justice movement, founded by Catholic intellectual, Dorothy Day, who advocated honoring the dignity of the poor by living amongst them.
Following graduation from college, Ned served as a campus minister at Wilkes University, and as a staff member at Vision House in Scranton, which offered shelter and counseling to men who had been released from prison and struggled with addictions. Ned also served as a human rights observer in Haiti during the time the Haitian military seized power, and Ned returned to Haiti and to El Salvador throughout his social justice career to discourage political intimidation and violence. Ned has participated in numerous acts of non-violent civil disobedience, including a protest action at the Ft. Benning School of Americas that led to his arrest, conviction, and six-month sentence in federal prison in 2006.
Despite Ned’s activism, there was a quiet shyness about him. He was a free-spirited, somewhat stubborn soul and in the words of a dear friend “was in the rarest class of humans, one of the quiet walkers”. Ned’s actions spoke louder than his words, he gave of himself and was actively and quietly helping those in need. He planted and cultivated a vibrant vegetable and flower garden and, as one former community member remarked, “Ned struggled to balance his need for regenerative time in nature with his commitment to his neighbors on the Hill”. Ned himself said, “I need some green space to breathe properly.” Over the past 20 years, the St. Martin de Porres Catholic Worker House has been Ned’s primary home and place of vocation and servant leadership. The home is an intentional community that practices voluntary poverty as it addresses the spiritual and material needs of an economically poor neighborhood just a mile from the state’s Capitol Building in the Allison Hill community. Allison Hill had been the center of Ned’s world. He envisioned a dignified, peaceful community and he worked tirelessly to support that vision.
Ned was a member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Harrisburg where he was a 3rd Order Lay Franciscan and actively involved in Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement for 22 years. He later helped to establish Pax Christi’s USA’s national Youth and Young Adult Forum. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Susan Merrill Constance Kozel Award. This award is presented to individuals whose contributions to society reflects the principles of justice and peace.
Surviving is his mother, Dorothy A. Smith, Hunlock Creek, PA; three sisters: Jennifer Smith, Baltimore, MD, Kristen Prutzman (and her husband, Todd), Forty Fort, and Lauren Siegfried (and her husband, Tim), Shavertown; one niece and one nephew, Lauren and Owen Oechsle, Baltimore (who knew Ned as “Tio”); and many, many friends, too numerous to count, all of whom will miss him greatly.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated 11:00 am Thursday, May 16, 2019, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 1439 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17103 with the Rev. Orlando Reyes officiating. Friends will be received Thursday at the church from 9:00 am until 11:00 am and are invited to join the family for a luncheon in the church hall following Mass.
A second Memorial Mass will be celebrated 9:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2019, at St. Patrick’s/St. Andrew’s Church, 316 Parrish St, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The Mass will be followed by a luncheon. Directions and venue details will be shared at the Mass.
Burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Wilkes-Barre will be held at the convenience of the family.
Friends are encouraged to make contributions in his memory to his church or to the Saint Martin de Porres Catholic Worker House, 1440 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17103.
Kimmel Funeral Home, Harrisburg, is handling arrangements.