The death of Dr. Paul Smith last week was a sad loss for many in the Laurel community.
Smith, 89, was well known and respected throughout the area for his community involvement and practicing medicine for nearly 40 years. Smith was dedicated to his church and was also a businessman - as one of the founding members of London Bank and Trust where he served as director from 1975 to 2000.
Smith was very involved in his church, First Christian Church of London, as well as being a founding director of Laurel Heights Nursing Home, which is now known as Laurel Senior Living Communities.
Smith was one of the first honorees of the London's Living Treasures and remained a loyal Kentucky Wildcat fan throughout his life.
His medical career spanned nearly four decades and he is credited with delivering over 4,000 babies as well as serving as Chief of Staff at Marymount Hospital, which later became Marymount Medical Center and eventually evolved into the current Saint Joseph London.
But Smith was primarily known for his kindness and gentle nature to others.
Brian House was one of those who paid tribute to Smith in a Facebook post after hearing of Smith's death.
"Dr. Smith has passed. Such a fine man. Even tempered and gracious to all. He was one of my steadfast supporters when I served at First Christian London and for years afterward. I never heard him disparage anyone. He made London better. He made me a better minister. Rest well Paul. Your journey has ended. You’re home now."
Those comments were followed by many other tributes from people in the community. Mike Hamm wrote: "Our world could use more people like Paul Smith. A kind and caring man. He will be missed."
Sweetie Smith and her late husband were close friends of Paul and Ann Smith since they moved to London in 1960.
"I'm not sure how we got to know each other but we became good friends," she said. "Their house burned in 1977 and we had a house on Main Street that we let them live in rent-free. I remember I was talking to her on the phone and she said she smelled something. Then she said the house was on fire and to call the fire department. My son had stayed all night over there so I went on over there. It was a mess."
But the disaster was offset and strengthened the friendship between the two families.
"Ann and I used to go to Florida and take the kids with us," she said. "Ann referred to me as her 'soul sister.'"
But Smith said Paul Smith's kindness was his greatest attribute.
"Paul was the most caring and kind person I've ever known," she said. "He tended to the sick, he was at the bedside of the dying. There is nothing anyone could ever say against him - he was almost saintly."
Carol Singleton is a retired nurse who worked with Smith for many years.
"He was the kindest person I've ever known," Singleton said. "I worked with him and he'd go and go and go. He even delivered my son."
Singleton also said Smith delivered many, many babies during his career as a family physician.
"I remember one time he delivered a baby after he'd worked long hours and I asked him if it was a girl or a boy," she said, laughing. "He said, 'I don't even know. Check it and see. It's either one or the other'."
Singleton said Smith's death was a loss to the community for those who knew him and remembered the many contributions he made to the community,
Smith was born in Harlan County during the Great Depression and attended Cumberland College and the University of Kentucky before attending the University of Louisville Medical School. After that he met his wife, Ann Hollin, and then served as a Captain and Flight Surgeon in the U.S. Air Force for two years.
Smith's memorial service was held Friday at London Funeral Home.