Last Eyewitness of AA's Origins Dies in Memphis
(Memphis, Tenn. April
22, 2004) Robert "Bob" Smith II, last eyewitness of the start of Alcoholics Anonymous, died of congestive heart failure
at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. about 5 o'clock Thursday evening, April 22, 2004. "Smitty," his nickname in
youth and later at recovery gatherings worldwide, was the only son of Anne Smith and Akron, Ohio physician Dr. Bob Smith.
Then a teenager, young Bob was there on Mother's day 1935 when his father met New York stockbroker Bill Wilson for the first
time. The two co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, a twelve step recovery program that has helped more than two million
people worldwide recover from the disease of alcoholism. AA's twelve step program has been replicated by more than 250
other groups that use the same steps to overcome addictions to drugs, gambling, food, sex and other behaviors. Bob Smith
joined Al-Anon, a recovery program for the spouses, family,
friends and other loved ones of alcoholics, when one
of his family members began attending AA meetings in Nocona, Texas in the late 1970s. It was only then, the younger
Smith would say, that he realized the enormity of his father's contribution to the world in the co-founding of AA.
the past 27 years, Bob Smith accepted invitations to speak at AA and Al-Anon Conventions worldwide thirty to forty times a
year. Smith made his last talk three weeks ago in Chicago's Indiana suburbs at the Talumet Round-Up. He had cut back on his
speaking engagements to twenty to twenty-five a year only as he entered his mid-80s. Smith would say of such invitations,
"they didn't invite me for who I am. It's who I know," referring to the famous co-founders of AA who are regarded
as spiritual giants by recovering alcoholics worldwide. Bob Smith would share his memories of AA's pioneering days at conferences,
recalling how his parents and Bill Wilson allowed recovering drunks to stay in their Akron home at 855 Ardmore Avenue.
Smith's childhood home is visited annually by thousands who wish to see where the program of recovery had its origins.
"It was such a gift to live with Bob. We decided if we had two weeks together or ten years together, we'd take it
at a time and that's what we did, " said Mona Sides-Smith, a Memphis based therapist, who married the son of the AA co-founder
in September 2002. Smith's first wife of more than fifty years, Betty Smith, died several years earlier. Bob Smith leaves
a son from his marriage to Betty, Todd Smith of Vernon, Texas and two daughters, Penny
Umbertino of Phoenix, Arizona and
Judy Edmiston of Dallas, Texas. He leaves one granddaughter, Kathy Graser of Denver, Colorado. Smith also leave three
stepdaughters: Rachel Farmer, Elaine Orland and Elizabeth Douglas, all of Memphis.
Smith spent his working life
in Texas as an oli producer. He served as a pilot in World War II, flying the B-24 Liberator on 35 submarine-hunting missions
out of Africa. Smith worked as a commercial pilot for a time after the war. But he spent the last three decades of his
life focused on sharing the gift his father helped bring into the world, AA. In his book CHILDREN OF THE HEALER (Copyright
1992, Parkside Publishing Company), co-authored with his late sister, Sue
Smith Windows, Smith's thoughts written on the
dedication page seem a fitting epitaph, "For the loving God who allowed me to lead a very exciting life and also loved me
through my many mistakes and who allows me to be of service. For the constant love and understanding of four* good kids and
a steadfast wife. I am truly grateful. For my loving parents who tried to instill in me values by their tireless example.
For the many friends I have met and know as a result of 12 step programs. You have taught me a way of life in these programs
that I never would have figured out by myself. I am truly grateful."
One AA member said upon learning of Smitty's death
in Memphis, "many thousands of AAs who met Smitty and heard him tell the eyewitness account of AA's origins will mourn his
passing but will celebrate his life and the great gifts he shared." Memphis Funeral Home on Poplar Avenue in Memphis,
Tenn. has charge.