Family and friends have announced the passing of beloved Chicago community member and mentor to many, Barbara "Robbie" Smith. Born May 25, 1946, Smith died Feb. 14, 2015. Her gay community activism started in the 1960s.
Smith was a longtime Affinity board member, managed the organization's finances for 12 years, was a founding member of Forty Plus, and was a founding member of the Affinity Trailblazers.
She was also a key participant in the Women of All Colors and Cultures Together social organization. She supported the Lesbian Community Care Project, Crossroads Fund and the Chicago Foundation for Women.
She received her BA from Chicago State University, and worked in accounting and real estate sales.
In a 2007 interview with the Chicago Gay History Project, Smith said: "When I began living a lesbian lifestyle in the '60s, there was a lot of police harassment. It mostly centered on how you dressed. For example, women who wore 'fly-front' pants were frequently arrested for impersonation. … My mentors were the older lesbians in the community."
Asked about defining moments in her life, Smith said: "There have been several in my life at this point, the first being the realization that my daughter was a born leader. Another would be that my involvement with Affinity has been a gift that I have been given. … I think my personal legacy to the community would be a testament about the rewards that come from being a service to others."
Her friends said she was an amazing human being who was also wife and mother to two phenomenal women, Phyllis Johnson and Chris Smith, respectively. Robbie Smith and Johnson, partners since October 2001, married in late 2014.
A statement released from friends read: "Her transition has left a huge hole in our hearts. During these difficult days, please keep her family in your thoughts, prayers, chants, meditations."
Smith's memorial service will be Saturday, March 7, 2015, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., First Unitarian Church, 5650 S. Woodlawn, Chicago. Repast will follow the service.
The Chicago Gay History Project 2007 interview with Robbie Smith and Phyllis Johnson is posted here: chicagogayhistory.org/biography.html .