By Kayla Anderson
On Saturday, September 12, the City of Sparks hosted a memorial event for Mayor Ron Smith at the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza at the Sparks Marina. Between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., people were invited to visit the memorial and pay their respects by leaving cards, messages, and memories to commiserate and honor his legacy. Smith died of pancreatic cancer late last month.
“We think this is the perfect venue to pay tribute to our mayor. Mayor Smith truly had a heart for veterans and the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza Project will be one of his great legacies,” said City Manager Neil Krutz.
“I was there all day, it was wonderful,” says City of Sparks Community Relations Manager Julie Duewel, who saw a few hundred people filter in and out to visit the memorial. She says that a consistent amount of people came to the Plaza at different times throughout the day, to pay their respects, leave notes, and share stories about Smith with his family. Since Ron Smith spent many years as a manager at a local Scolari’s branch, Duewel was surprised to see the number of people who knew Ron from working there.
“A lot of people who paid their respects were from Scolari’s and said what a difference he made in their lives and how kind he was,” Duewel says. For many of the high school students in Sparks, Smith was their first boss.
Besides making an impact on the people who worked at Scolari’s, others knew Smith from the various boards and commissions he worked with, such as Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung who also came to pay his respects. All Sparks city councilmembers visited, and his fellow city councilmember Kristopher Dahir stayed all day. Smith’s family was also in attendance, meeting the various community members who also fondly remember Smith.
“They were so thankful (that we had this) and I think they liked the way it turned out. We did a couple memory boards showing him as a citizen, a father, a grandfather, a manager, a city councilman… people commented a lot about those,” Duewel says.
“It was a beautiful event. Unfortunately, we had to adhere to social distancing rules, but no one seemed to mind. And we had it at one of Ron’s favorite spots…his heartstrings were all in the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza project, I suspect that the project will be finished within a year,” Duewel says.
Due to Covid restrictions on large congregations, the City did not host any speakers or have any sort of formal gathering. However, it plans on having a celebration of life for the former Sparks mayor after Covid limitations have been lifted likely a year from now.
To remember Ron Smith, State of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered United States and State of Nevada flags be flown at half-staff at all State public buildings and the State Capitol from sunrise until sunset on September 12. Along with serving as a city councilman and mayor for the City of Sparks, Ron Smith is also Navy veteran.
To donate to the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza project, visit https://nvmp.info/.