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    A Remembrance of Stu Smith and his Legacy of Service

    By Kaushik Roy

    With the passing of Stu Smith on February 3rd, San Francisco’s LGBT, HIV, and Recovery communities lost one of their iconic members and leaders. Words are inadequate to try to describe the breadth of his impact and the void he leaves behind in the community. As he was for so many others, Stu was a pillar of love and strength for me. He made a huge impact on my life as an invaluable mentor and dear friend.

    When I first became Executive Director of the Shanti Project, I was only 30 and completely inexperienced. Stu took me under his wing, and we were joined at the hip for a couple of years. He shared his experiences and guidance, introduced me to everyone he could, and was always so optimistic and confident in the healing and transformative powers of compassion.

    Stu knew firsthand how compassion could save one’s life. Ernest Hemingway reminds us that this world breaks everyone, but some of us are able to come back stronger in the places where we were broken. When this world broke Stu, he chose to heal himself. But that wasn’t enough for Stu, because he realized one of the great secrets of life—that the way we go beyond healing, and actually become stronger in our broken places—is by being there for others so that they too can heal and become stronger.

    I’m not sure if any of us knows anyone else that has done what Stu did for the last two decades. In his own gentle, unassuming way, he offered love and compassion to everyone he encountered. Whether it was through his recovery or all the different nonprofits in which he was involved, Stu showed up for countless numbers of people, so they could also heal and become stronger.

    I would not be the person I am without Stu, and Shanti would not be the organization that it is today. The beautiful thing about Stu is that there are countless numbers of people and organizations that can say the exact same thing.

    Over the last 20 years, Stu was a shining example of how to lead a truly meaningful and selfless life. Before his passing, I knew that a lot of people loved Stu. What I’ve realized in the two weeks since his death is just how deeply people loved Stu, and how incredibly affected others were by his caring and nurturing ways. He was truly an original and will be greatly missed. I hope we all try to follow his lead and continue his inimitable legacy of service.

    Kaushik Roy serves as Executive Director of the Shanti Project, one of San Francisco’s oldest community-based HIV/AIDS and cancer nonprofit agencies.

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    PHOTO BY STEVEN UNDERHILL

    PHOTO BY STEVEN UNDERHILL