“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou

We all know remarkably good people. They’re the ones who demonstrate kindness, other-centeredness, the ability to give so well you just feel really good in their presence. When they go, especially suddenly, the void is profound and shocking.

That how it is with Darrell Smith, who got Covid and passed away unexpectedly last week. A better friend, a kinder presence, a more congenial companion of faith and good will can scarcely be imagined. It’s stunning to know he is no more to be seen in physical form, his Santa-like countenance now a face in memory. He is no less alive, of course, but we will miss that smile and embodiment of cheer walking in our door.

Darrell became a regular presence with us when we connected with him about our performing arts center project. He learned of our plan to build the center here in Goldendale, founded on a notion we call Living Integrity, a program aimed at developing the ability to discern levels of integrity in situations and, in particular, the arts, since they are so vastly ubiquitous and impactful in society—and, important to add, so utterly unconscious of their impact. Darrell was inspired by the plan. He wanted to get on board and help.

“I know some people down in Burbank,” he told me one day, meaning the city in California. “They might like to get involved. Let’s go down and meet them. If you don’t feel it was worth the trip, I’ll pay for it.” So off we went to meet the people at Reveal Studio. Fast forward four years, and one of the people, Brad, from that remarkable studio was in town just last week to talk about new developments toward the project. As were we all, Brad was shocked to learn of Darrell’s passing.

Darrell’s faith in our project was deep and unshakable. He ably defended it on our behalf when it faced challenges from some strange quarters. He devised strategies and held a training for us based on his years in strategic planning and project development. Most of all, he held as sacrosanct the vision behind the project: to prevent the freefall of “normal” to common-denominator levels of societal acceptance, indeed, to keep “normal” commensurate with integrity. Without education about the impact of integrity on the psychological and physiological well-being of the human nervous system—something science increasingly reveals—there is no safety net for what we accept as normal, especially in the arts. Darrell knew this, always wanted to contribute to that goal, and was instrumental in moving it forward.

That, of course, reveals much about Darrell’s inner sensibilities. It takes a person of integrity to be concerned about integrity. Darrell was a model of that awareness, as is his remarkable and kind wife, Melissa, whom we are so blessed to count among our dear friends.

“You’ve got to listen to this,” Darrell said to me one day, handing me a CD of the original Broadway musical cast recording of Jane Eyre. We’d been talking about the kinds of shows we could have at our performing arts center. “It’s amazing music and an amazing show.” He was right. I play the recording often, marveling at its craftsmanship and ingenuity. I put it on in the car this morning driving to the office. I pictured Darrell in the passenger seat, smiling that cheery grin of his, listening along. Two buds connecting with great music and a greater sense of purpose.

Thanks for everything, Darrell. Your name will be up on a commemorative place of honor in the performing arts center.