Barnegat resident and 9/11 first responder Sgt. Harold J. Smith, 47, died early Saturday morning after a battle with kidney cancer.
Smith, known to friends as “Smitty,” retired from the New York Police Department’s narcotics division in 2007 after 20 years on the force, he told Barnegat Patch in a December interview.
He moved to Barnegat from Staten Island that year with his wife Margie and their three children, who survive him. In 2008, he was diagnosed with cancer, the result, said his doctors, of the months he spent sifting through the rubble of the World Trade towers after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Smitty was a giant among men,” said his friend and fellow 9/11 responder Charlie Giles. “There wasn’t a mean bone in his body."
Even while Smith was suffering from stage-four cancer, Giles said, “he still sought me out to see if I needed anything. He was a loving, caring, phenomenal person. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
Last month, Barnegat Mayor Jeffrey Melchiondo and members of the Township Committee gathered at Smith’s house to read a proclamation recognizing his service. Just weeks later, at Monday night’s Committee meeting, Melchiondo offered a somber postscript when he announced that Smith had passed away.
“Our condolences go out to his family and friends,” Melchiondo said.
Like so many other 9/11 first responders struggling with illness attributed to their service at Ground Zero, Smith had expressed relief when, in December, a $4.2 billion health care bill for first responders passed in the Legislature.
Smith said then he was glad to know his family wouldn’t be burdened with his mounting medical bills.
“I'd rather have my health back,” he said in an interview just after the Senate passed the bill. “But it is what it is. You gotta play with the cards you're dealt."
Smith’s wake will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today (Tuesday) and Wednesday at Hanley Funeral Home, 60 New Dorp Lane, Staten Island, N.Y. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, located across the street from the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, Smith’s family requests donations to the Tommy Corbett and Jeffrey Jay Hope and Heroes Childrens Cancer Fund, 161 Fort Washington Avenue, LP-7, New York, N.Y., 10032.