John (Jack) Moffett Smith, born April 30, 1936, died Easter morning, April 4, 2021, in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few weeks shy of his 85th birthday. A native of Bluefield, West Virginia, John and his revered older siblings, Jean and Dick, started working at a very young age. John and his brother were paper boys, bat boys and caddies amongst many other roles, and it was his commitment as a newspaper carrier which led to the opportunity to attend Phillips Exeter Academy on a full scholarship as one of "Hammy's boys", young men from small towns and big cities around the country who were "long on brains but short on cash". According to John, he had far more success on the athletic fields than in the classrooms at Exeter, and counted those years among the most transformative of his life.
A 1955 Exeter graduate, John also earned a B.A. in Psychology from Duke University in 1959 and a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1962, the same year he was ordained into the Episcopal Church. This vocational choice was inspired by deeply formative summer camp experiences at Peterkin, the Diocese of West Virginia's summer camp.
John married Eleanor Boothe Smith of Alexandria, VA, in August of 1962, who remained his beloved spouse for 55 years until her death in 2017. Brought together by a shared faith tradition and many hours on the tennis court, they spent their early years of marriage in parish work in Morgantown, WV, and Exeter, NH, before John joined the faculty at Episcopal High School as Chaplain and Chair of the Theology Department from 1968-1974. In this role, he relished the opportunity to mentor, coach, teach and guide young men in their most formative years. Of particular importance during that time was his leadership and advocacy for equity and access as Episcopal integrated its student body in 1968. During this time, he also served as Director of St. George's Camp in the Diocese of Virginia, beginning a lifelong love of Shrine Mont and all its beauty and people.
He served as Rector for 23 years at St. James Church, Leesburg, VA, leading, preaching and teaching and ultimately retiring from there in 1998. In these precious years, he raised a family and built a parish community in which all were welcome. Throughout his career, John worked vigorously for progressive causes in the Church, from liturgical change and women's ordination, to racial reconciliation, ordination and marriage rites for LGBT individuals. He was instrumental in placing civil rights martyr Jonathan Myrick Daniels on the Calendar of Saints and established many ecumenical outreach ministries including a residential youth shelter in Loudoun County, VA. His core and abiding belief in the principles of justice and equality stood central to his understanding of the Gospel, and he approached every person he met as a unique and beloved child of God worthy of his time, respect and authentic care.
Upon retirement, John and Eleanor made their home in Pittsboro, NC, before returning to Northern Virginia in 2017, settling in the Alexandria/Arlington area. They traveled widely between East and West Coasts to visit family, which was their greatest joy. Following Eleanor's death, John joined the Goodwin House Alexandria community, reveling in friendships new and old, and seemingly bonding with all whom he met there.
Preceded in death by wife Eleanor, John is survived by his brother (Dick, wife Jean), three children (Doug, Katherine and Sarah), their spouses, six grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews, all of whom will miss his humor, wisdom, compassion and kindness beyond measure. His love of people, morning newspapers, storytelling, current events discussions, fresh-baked cookies and all things Duke basketball will live on in those whose lives he has touched. May the man with the smiling eyes rest easy in the hereafter and always know how blessed his children were to call him Dad.
A service to celebrate John's life will be postponed until after the pandemic. Expressions of gratitude for John's life may be directed to Shrine Mont Camps, PO Box 10, Orkney Springs, VA 22845 or www.shrinemont.com.