One of Fort Myers Beach all-time leading ladies took a final bow last Friday. Roxie Davis Smith passed away at age 78 due to complications from a lingering illness.
Those wishing to pay respects can attend a viewing at the Harvey-Englehardt (1600 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers) Wednesday, from 5-7 p.m. Beach residents should note an Anglican service is slated for Thursday, at 4 p.m., at the Beach Baptist Church, 130 Connecticut St., followed by a reception at Mastello's Restorante (7890 Summerlin Lakes Dr., Fort Myers). People are being asked to wear a touch of pink.
Smith, who was born and raised in Lincoln, Neb. and grew up in South, S.D., moved down to Estero Island in 1964. She first visited the Beach in 1950 while on vacation from boarding school in South Dakota.
During her years on Estero Island, she was known for her grace, countrywide smile and involvement with local, county and state issues.
"She was like a sister to me," said Fran Myers, her longtime friend. "For me, it is a personal lost. We went to every meeting and function together. We put out a lot of fires together. I don't think everyone knew how tough as nails she was. She was a behind-the-scene person who could put her fingers in her mouth, whistle and call a group together. On the outside, she was a lady that didn't seek publicity for herself. She was so smart. I am losing a dear friend."
A.J. Bassett had known Roxie since the 1950s and called her a best friend. Both were involved in church activities (senior wardens at St. Raphael), historic preservation and the Estero Island Historic Society (Roxie was charter member) and Nature Center together and became better acquainted when Bassett retired in the late 1980s.
"We both loved the beach and the water. She was the reason we have a historic society," Bassett said. "She was a remarkable person and one of the funniest people I have ever been around. She was just a delight to be with, honest as the day is long and trustworthy. You just couldn't pick a better friend. She had every attribute."
The Town of Fort Myers Beach will honor Roxie with a proclamation and will name May 4, 2013 (Volunteer Appreciation Day) as Roxie Smith Day.
Beach Mayor Alan Mandel had what turned out to be his last conversation with Smith just prior to Easter. She was concerned about being able to use the Beach Pier for Easter Sunrise Service, but the issue was resolved.
"It was certainly nice to always get a good, broad perspective on the history of this island from Roxie," he said. "I very much enjoyed our conversations."
Pastor Alice Marcrum called Roxie "one of the quiet givers" and told her congregation that she had left her right arm at the hospital during Holy Week. She had known her since 2005.
"She was full of life and love," said Rev. Marcrum. "She always made you feel like you could do it. She was there for me all the time. She was a very generous and kind person. There is a big hole missing that I know the Lord will fill. I am so happy that she is with Him completely and no longer in pain. I know she is at peace."
Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera recalled when Roxie joined the Lee County Tourist Development Council in the mid-1980s.
"Roxie was an icon of this Beach. She has been a true leader in this business community," he said. "She was selfless in her service to our Beach. The number of hours that she has donated over the course of her life to the betterment of this Beach cannot be estimated. This is a woman who was remarkably strong and served as a role model for all of us in the business. Her integrity, loyalty and business skills were to be admired."
Lee County Commissioner John Manning appointed Roxie to the County TDC during his first stint on the County Commission.
"With respect to her passing, my thoughts and prayers go out to her family," he said. "If there was ever a definition for 'salt of the earth,' that was Roxie. She was just a very kind and humble person who wanted to get involved in the affairs of Fort Myers Beach as a citizen and a volunteer. She did a very, very, very good job as a member of the TDC. We are going to miss her."
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau Executive Director Tamara Pigott called it a "sad day for tourism in Lee County" when she heard of Smith's passing.
"From my point of view, I don't think there is a VCB director that Roxie didn't influence," she said. "She was a true mentor and a gentle, guiding hand to each one of us. I feel both a personal and professional sense of loss."
Beaches & Keys LLC publisher Marguerite Burns Kastan was hired by Roxie in 1972 to work the front desk at Pink Shell.
"Roxie was a great person, whom enlightened and inspired the hearts of many," she said. "It has been a honor to have known Roxie all these years."
Former FMB Chamber President John Albion is another person who had known Roxie for many years. He first began interacting with her on the professional level in 1984.
"Roxie had a very progressive outlook and love for Fort Myers Beach that in many ways was unrivaled," he said. "Her participations and her actions created a better, more fortified result for the long term. She was also involved with environmental elements of the island and an advocate for Beach Elementary School."
Albion noted Smith's work during Spirit of the Holidays was "amazing."
"Even when having difficult health issues, she was impossible to slow down in getting those gifts and making sure they were wrapped and ready to go," he said. "She was relentless."
Sheriff Mike Scott knew Roxie practically his entire life. He said his father (Arthur C. Scott Contracting) and Roxie's father, Bob Davis, built the original Pink Shell beginning with the cottages to the first high rise. During the summers of the building process, the Davis' invited the Scotts (Mike's mother was a teacher at the time) to live at the resort to cut down the business commute from North Fort Myers where they lived. Sheriff Scott and Roxie's late son, Steve, went to school together and "literally grew up together" during those youthful summers by fishing, playing at the cottages and hanging on the beachfront.
"It's a shame," said Scott. "She was a very special, classy lady that will be sorely missed by me, my family and many, many others in this community."
Smith won numerous awards during her volunteer-laden career, including the 2007 Best of Beach Humanitarian Award and the 2009 Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award.
After being selected for the citizen award, Smith had this to say: "The real pleasure is doing the work for the community and the church. It's always nice to have people say 'we recognize what you do, and we appreciate it.' As far as I'm concerned, we are all winners. The real joy for me has been working with all of you. You make it very rewarding."
Here is a partial list of community, town and county participation that Roxie was involved with:
- longtime board member of the FMB Chamber Board of Directors (director, treasurer, vice chair and chair); helped form and was vice-president of FMB Chamber Foundation since 1985; founding member of 'Build a Pool Committee.'
- past chair and eight years of service on Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency; served on Historic Preservation Subcommittee and Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board; past vice chair of Newton Park Committee; Lynn Hall Park Redevelopment and Advisory Committee; vice chair of Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve; founder and board member of Estero Island Historic Society; board member of the Marine Institute; served as board member of the Main Street U.S.A. Committee and director of the Spirit of the Holidays Committee
- 24 years on Tourist Development Council (past vice chair); chairperson of the Superior Small Lodging Committee; 2007 Search Committee member for TDC executive director; served on the Lee County Coastal Advisory Committee and Business Leaders Advisory Group; founder and secretary of Horizon Council; first chair of FMB & Lee County CRA; appointed by BOCC to serve on several 'search committees' including Barbara B. Mann Hall Study Group; served on 'Keep Lee County Beautiful Committee; founding board member of Uncommon Friends Foundation; serves on Edison/Ford Foundation
- 1986 graduate of Leadership Lee County and Lee Grows; served on Southwest Florida Regional Hospital Advisory Group, Lee Memorial Health System and 2007 Community Health Vision Steering Committee
- a committee originator for FMB Relay For Life; Community Emergency Response Team member; helped form local 'Save The Manatee Chapter'
- appointed and re-appointed to Florida Commission on Tourism (co-chair); served as co-chair of Visit Florida's Cultural Heritage and Nature Tourism Development Committee.
Saint Raphael's by the Sea mourns its beloved Senior Warden
Roxie Smith went home to Jesus, Friday evening, April 19, 2013.
Roxanna Smith, known affectionately as "Roxie", passed away this past Friday night at Health Park Hospital in Fort Myers, Florida. After several weeks in ICU following surgery Roxie died peacefully surrounded by her family.
Roxie was one of the founders of the new Anglican Church in Fort Myers Beach and an active member of the community both locally and statewide.
She will be deeply missed.
The family has arranged for a viewing at Harvey-Englehardt Funeral Home, 1600 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers at 5 to 7 p.m., on Wednesday, April 24th.
The funeral will be held at the Beach Baptist Church on Estero Boulevard., Fort Myers Beach at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 25. The Rev. Marcrum will be celebrating and preaching.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be sent to: St. Raphael's by the Sea Anglican Church, or Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and/or Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve.
A reception will be held following the funeral at Mastellos Italian Restaurant ~ 7890 Summerlin Lakes Drive, Fort Myers.
A private interment will be held at a later date.