B. Smith, restaurateur, lifestyle maven and esteemed businesswoman, has passed away at age 70, according to her husband, Dan Gasby.
Gasby announced the news of his wife’s passing in a Facebook post. “It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith,” he said. “B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York. She was 70.”
Smith’s husband also thanked the physicians and caregivers who assisted his wife through her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. “Thank you to Dr. Sam Gandy, East End Hospice, and additional caregivers who helped us make B. comfortable in her final days, Gasby wrote. “Thank you to all the friends and fans who supported B. and our family during her journey. Thank you to everyone for respecting our privacy during this agonizing time.”
Smith, who began her career as a model in the 1960s and was the first Black woman to grace the cover of Mademoiselle in 1976, became a lifestyle maven, a businesswoman and a restaurateur with restaurants in New York, as well as, Washington D.C. She has also written three cookbooks, B. Smith Cooks Southern Style, B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends, B. Smith’s Rituals and Celebrations. The D.C. and Sag Harbor and New York City locations have since closed its’ doors.
Smith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. Following Smith’s diagnosis, she and her husband wrote about their experience battling with the disease in the New York Times best-selling book, Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is an “irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks,” according to the National Institute on Aging. It’s not unusual for someone suffering from the disease to walk out of their home and get lost in familiar surroundings.
An estimated 5.7 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s. “What may surprise many is that African Americans … are far more likely to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia than whites,” USA Today reported in January.
The passing of the successful and revered businesswoman has affected many, as they have taken to social media to pay tribute to her life.
Al Roker tweeted, “We lost legendary fashion model, chef, restaurateur, lifestyle icon and magazine publisher, B Smith today. 70 years old, she and her husband, Dan Gasby were at the forefront of #alzheimers #research for people of color. Love to them and daughter, Dana. #bsmithwithstyle.”
Tamron Hall also wrote:
The couple spoke with NewsOne Now in 2016 and shared how life with the disease has been a challenge for them.
Before the diagnosis, Dan Gasby told Roland Martin, “We had everything. We didn’t need anything. We had come from nothing, made something, and our world was perfect. I could look across the room and talk to her with my eyes, we could walk into a room and light it up, light each other up, light the audience up, or in a restaurant make people feel at home,” Gasby said.
He continued by explaining how they came to discover the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, calling it “little signs of difference.” Gasby continued, “There were outbursts of outrage about something that didn’t seem to be necessary, or repeating of a question more than one time and in rapid succession — or asking for something that was no longer there or no longer realizable.”
Smith spoke with CBS News in 2014, and revealed that prior to being diagnosed, she knew something was wrong. “I don’t know how long it was, but I guess I would say it was maybe two or three years,” she said at the time. “And I would sing sad songs: ‘You’ve abandoned me. Love don’t live here.'”
Smith said she would repeat things, or be nonresponsive to questions, for nearly four years. She then sought an opinion from a team of experts at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Tests and a scan of her brain was conducted, determining that “ability to think and remember were abnormal,” according to CBS News.