Mark E. Smith, whose writing and upbeat personality brought joy and enlightenment to so many in the disability and mainstream communities — including thousands of New Mobility readers — passed away Sunday, Nov. 25. He was 47.
Born with cerebral palsy into a family wracked by alcoholism, Smith’s life was a textbook example of overcoming long odds and succeeding beyond traditional expectations. But to those who knew him, his accomplishments — borne of an impressive intellect, energetic drive and infectious positivism — were no surprise.
Smith was best known for his work with Quantum Rehab for the past 18 years, where he served as a general manager. Besides supplying expert consumer feedback on research and development projects, he handled public relations for the company, working closely with the industry’s trade publications. He also employed his expertise in wheeled mobility and gift for writing in ways that benefited the disability community at large. Known as “The Wheelchair Junkie” for his website of the same name, he answered thousands of consumer questions year after year and later turned to more personal writing in his blog, powerchairdiaries.com.
From the mid-2000s to the present, New Mobility was fortunate to publish Smith’s blogs, and later his “Innovations” column on a regular basis, as well as occasional feature articles. He also authored five books and spent time lecturing and speaking. Smith was well-known at Medtrade and other industry shows and exhibits for his technical knowledge, lively personality and sense of humor, which had a way of shining through despite a serious speech disability due to cerebral palsy. “In print, Mark won over readers with his crisp writing and candor. In person, his smile and gregarious approach were even more effective,” says New Mobility Editor Ian Ruder. “He was the consummate professional and a perfect embodiment of exactly what New Mobility is about. His voice, his insight and his friendship will all be missed.”
Smith, never a complainer, battled cancer in his final months in his typical style, remaining grateful for his life, work and family despite pain and loss of mobility. In one of his final blog entries, posted September 20, Smith wrote: “There’s little finality to death for the living. Those passed remain with us, alive in so many ways. This realization, based on my experience, has brought me tremendous comfort, both toward those I’ve had pass and toward those who will one day experience my passing.”
Smith is survived by his wife, Holly, daughters Emily and Annabelle, siblings Steve and Amanda, and numerous nieces and nephews. A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, Dec. 1. Donations to The Muscular Dystrophy Association can be made in lieu of flowers.