The Rev. Bernard Smith, a Kings Park native who joined the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchin in the 1950s, died Monday at his home in upstate New York. He was 72.
Smith, who was baptized as Thomas, died in his sleep at the Church of St. Joachim in Beacon, the home he shared with three other priests, said Brother John Shento.
To his parishioners, Smith was a religious leader. To his family he was Uncle Thomas, a confidant they turned to for guidance and comfort.
"You could call him any time. You could talk to him about anything. He was someone who could make it better," said a niece, Joanne Leonardi, 43, of Kings Park. "It's a loss beyond anything we could imagine."
Born Nov. 18, 1937, Smith was the youngest of six children, said his eldest sister, Sister Mary P. Smith, a Dominican at St. Hugh Convent in Huntington Station. He attended St. Joseph Elementary School in Kings Park, then St. Mary Seminary in Garrison, N.Y.
Smith was ordained a priest in 1964 at the Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers. Over more than four decades, he held numerous jobs in the religious order and his assignments took him to Long Island, Portland, Maine, and as far as India and Japan, Shento said.
While he was a provincial leader in the 1980s, Smith visited India. Working with the friars in India, Smith traveled to Japan and, together, they started several missions, said a nephew, Thomas Lohmann, 52, of Smithtown.
Smith was known for weaving into his homilies stories he heard from his nieces, nephews and other relatives in his large, extended family, they said.
"Uncle Thomas was a beacon of light in our family," Lohmann said.
Aside from his sister, Smith is survived by a second sister, Catherine Smith-Healy, and a brother, Patrick Smith, both of Kings Park.
A wake is scheduled for Thursday between 2 and 9 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers. A funeral is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. Burial will be at a cemetery adjacent to the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Capuchin Franciscan Scholarship Burse in care of Province of St. Mary, 210 W. 31st St., New York, NY 10001.