Sussex County veteran passes away from coronavirus

James Smith, 84, of Rehoboth Beach, DE – Parsell Funeral Home & Crematorium

An 84-year-old Rehoboth Beach resident and U.S. Navy veteran has passed away due to complications from coronavirus.

James Douglas Smith, 84, of Rehoboth Beach, passed away on Saturday, March 28, 2020 at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes due to complications from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Smith proudly served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and continued his service in the U.S. federal civil service culminating in his retirement from the National Institute of Heath as an Endowments Supervisory Program Manager, according to his obituary. Travel, friendships, the arts, and Broadway shows were some of his passionate pastimes.

Peggy Elswick, of Lewes, worked alongside James for several years at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry where he worked in the gift shop. She said he was one of the funniest, most kind-hearted people she’s ever met, and was saddened to learn of his passing.

“He was probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” Elswick said. “He was an incredibly smart guy, and he loved his family, loved being an uncle.”

In an interview with WGMD’s Rob Petree, Peggy Elswick reacts to the passing of James Smith…

“It makes me feel incredibly sad because the family can’t mourn the way that they deserve to mourn his wonderful life,” Elswick said. “People just need to stay home, this is a very serious matter, and Jim had a lot of underlying conditions, but I know he’s happy now because he had recently lost his partner and they’re together and I take solace in that.”

Elswick said she had a problem with vertigo at the time when she was working at the ferry terminal, and one of the memories that sticks out in her mind while remembering Smith is how he helped her off of the boat after she got stuck.

“I’ll never forget how he made me feel comfortable and helped me through that,” Elswick said. “I will never forget how kind he was to me.”

Smith is recently pre-deceased by his beloved spouse of 49 years, Ronald Blakely. WGMD has been unable to reach the family.

Smith is survived by his brother, Stephen S. Smith and his wife Colette; his aunt Monica Douglas and family; his nephews Graham and Evans Haile, Randy and Kevin Smith, John and Michael Latham; his nieces Beverly Haile Parrish, Carol Smith Nagel; and close family members David S. Ross and Cynthia C. Ross.

Private Interment will be held at Epworth United Methodist cemetery Rehoboth Beach DE. Due to state and national health restrictions associated with COVID-19, the family will delay the formal memorial service until later in the summer when family along with Jim and Ron’s friends can gather to celebrate their lives at Parsell Funeral Homes and Crematorium, Atkins-Lodge Chapel, 16961 Kings Highway, Lewes, DE.

To send flowers or a memorial gift to the family of James Douglas Smith visit the Parsell Funeral Home Sympathy Store.