Eulogy for Dustin Arthur Smith Memorial Service

March 11, 2015

I am a celebrant of Dustin Arthur Smith’s wonderful 31 years and 10 months with us on Earth. I was extraordinarily blessed to be Dustin’s father, I am honored to celebrate his life today and always.

You know some of the basic facts about our Dustin’s remarkable life from his obituary.

In my research I learned that the root of the word obituary is found in the Latin, “Obitus” meaning, in alternate Latin usage, either “Departure” or “Encounter”. It seems that the Romans were searching for a euphemism for death – Death is that – both an encounter and a departure.

The cashier at the store where I purchased many of the picture frames you saw at the Funeral Home yesterday asked me for what occasion. When I gave her the sad news of my son’s passing, she remarked.

“He must have been very special since God recruited him so early as one of his angels.”

Yes, Dustin Arthur Smith was very, very special; special in his intellect, special in his kindness, special in his friendship and love. Look around you!   An outstanding group of family and friends have come from far and near to join our family here today. As was the case in Connecticut on February 23rd, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love we have received from you. I will always remember this time as the culmination of “Two Hundred Hugs and Two Thousand Tears.”

Let’s hear the drum roll!

Here’s my Top Ten Best of Dustin for us to remember him by – (It could be 50!)

10     Dustin’s Dry Wit

Dustin had a rare knack for communicating in a humorous and entertaining fashion and loved a good deadpan delivery; Dustin liked them really, really – Martini dry – like this one from that humor classic Aristotle – “On his feet, he wore blisters.”

On the difficulty of remembering computer passwords, he remarked that he had found the permanent solution – “When I type in anything the computer responds, ‘Your password is INCORRECT; so now my password is INCORRECT.’”

I’m sure you all can hear his laugh and see his dimples. I heard this gem from Dustin just a few weeks ago, “‘I never eat at food trucks; they always give me gas.’”

At his sister Erin’s wedding in South Carolina, Dustin arrived early and found a laundry list of chores from his big sister. He broke into a smile, “I’m here early to perform Erin Ahrens Errands!”

9         Dustin’s Love of Fishing –

The beautiful photo essay in the Parlor includes a TON of photos of Dustin catching fish of many species including King and Silver Salmon, Halibut, Drum and Speckled Trout. I can remember one of our many trips to the Waterfall Resort in Ketchikan, where Dustin caught four King Salmon to every one I landed. He out fished his Dad and everyone else on the boat – and did not show an ounce of mercy or remorse.

You may have enjoyed some of the 150 pounds of salmon filets we brought home every summer. Adding up his annual haul over the years, Dustin did catch a TON of fish.

8       Dustin’s BrainPower

I spent some time reviewing my efforts over the years to try to keep up with Dustin’ amazing intellect. In one instance in 2013, I offered some minor editorial suggestions to his Thesis Topic, “Generating and Interpreting Referring Expressions in Context.” In the paper, Dustin seeks to shed light on a system for interpretation of language in the computer world of artificial intelligence. Think of the challenges of the phrases, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” Or “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia and a cup of coffee.”

You are invited to witness the great presentation he made in defense of his Doctoral Thesis on the web. See the link: What a proud father am I! His PhD advisor, Henry Lieberman, characterized Dustin’s initiative as Heroic.”

7       Dustin’s Intellect without Ego

My brother in law, Keith Brown, said it best when he described Dustin as one who “wore his intellect lightly.” When Dustin received his PhD from MIT in 2013 I asked him, Ok, In what field is your Doctorate degree? He replied, Well it’s from the MIT School of Media Arts and Sciences. Well, then what is it in? He replied, Simplistically, it’s Computer Science. Ok, what then? Artificial Intelligence. Well? More specifically, Computational Linguistics. Well…Ok I conceded.

My friend Allen Routon likes to remind me that instead of Artificial Intelligence, he and I excel in Natural and Genuine Stupidity.

6       Dustin’s love of New Orleans and the Mardi Gras

Ever since they were small, Dustin and his sister Erin have been great fans of celebrating the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Erin and Dustin attended their first Mardi Gras when they were 6 and 4 years old, respectively – and they only missed a few Mardi Gras in Nawlins over the years when Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler. This year was no exception. Erin, Matt, Brooke, Noah, Allison, Roy, Holly, Eric, Hunter, and I were all there with Dustin, Marcio, Simon and Lesley along with many Smith cousins.

Dustin loved the Carnival Krewe where he and I are members, Le Krewe D’État. A few weeks ago Dustin remarked to me about the Krewe lunch that precedes riding on the float in the Friday parade, “Where else can you begin to party at 11:00 am with 500 grown men in suits and ties! Throw dinner rolls at one another and then continue to carry on in costumes on the floats all night.” That’s what Dustin, my son, and son in law Matt and I did on February 13th; We celebrated as members of Le Krewe D’État rolling through St. Charles and Canal.

Dustin loved everything about New Orleans including Raw Oysters on the Half Shell, BBQ Shrimp and Gumbo. And, don’t forget his fondness for Harrah’s casino blackjack and poker tables.

5       Dustin’s disinterest in material possessions and his indifference to wealth

Dustin never really cared a hoot about money and material goods. The fact that he did not care about money was manifest in Dustin’s devotion to MIT as a starving student; He labored for six years on scholarship for his Masters and Doctorate. Dustin didn’t care a hoot about fashion either. Whenever he would visit us in Houston we would drag a reluctant Dustin to the department store to replenish his faded wardrobe. But Dustin was always appreciative of gifts including the expensive watch we gave him one Holiday season. Although he acted like the Rolex was a good gift we made a mistake – it didn’t really suit Dustin and we rarely ever saw him wear it.

4       Dustin’s Natural Creativity and Entreprenurial Talent

Many of you know that over his years at Wake Forest and MIT in computer science, Dustin focused on understanding how to get Computers to Listen, Understand and Speak. Dustin had brainstorms that led to prototypes of breakthrough smart phone software like SIRI and sophisticated Agenda Planning Systems. He may have been a step behind Apple with Siri but he had great aspirations for Beansprock. Beansprock is a bootstrapped start-up tech firm he co-founded with his partner, Cameron Levy which was incubated in the MIT Media Lab. You may have seen the exciting February article on Beansprock’s Launch which was featured in Wired and several other tech magazines. I spoke to Cameron late last week and we have good news; through the help of MIT friends, Bo Morgan, Simon LaFlamme and others, Beansprock is getting momentum again – although Cameron admits that it will take at least three tech brains to replace Dustin.

3       Dustin’s Incredible Patience and Nurturing Nature

It’s been aptly said, “You can’t learn anything while you’re talking.” Dustin was blessed with his unique ability to listen, listen attentively, and listen sincerely. Immediately, he made everyone feel at ease. His love of his brethren was evident in his patience and caring in all situations where most would be stressed; Dustin tirelessly counseled students in the Media Lab at MIT. Several students I met at Dustin’s wake told me how my son would always go the extra mile to help them, even if Dustin’s own commitments suffered. “He never became cross or angry if things didn’t always move at the right pace or work out.” Perhaps, Dustin’s genuine patience with people was ultimately rewarded through the fishing rod and his success as a fisherman.

Another memorable example of Dustin’s infinite patience was evidenced when I recall how he painstakingly taught Holly’s boys how to tie their shoes. Cade, Jake and Rye can demonstrate.

2       Dustin was the Ultimate Best Friend

Ask any of his friends from over the years, Grayson, Simon, Bo, Ryan, Nico, Cameron, Eric and _____ and don’t forget Sharon, Erin, Allison and Alexis – Dustin was the ultimate GREAT BEST Friend! He was the ultimate communicator and was always there when you were in need of a hug or a smile. He knew that everyone wanted to be his only BEST Friend but Dustin did not play favorites – except perhaps with Marcio.

1       Dustin’s love of family and devotion to Marcio, his parents, three sisters, brother, niece and nephew

Dustin was loved by all of the extended Smith/Wagoner/Streckfus/Dorsey/Laidlaw/ Fernschild/Correa families. Family always came first with Dustin and he never missed any important family gatherings or the chance to kiss and hold a baby.

Ryan Trow, one of his long-time friends since high school at King Low Heywood Thomas, said it best, “Dustin was a special person – loved by everyone he ever met. His bright blue eyes would light up a room and he burst with pride when he talked about visiting his family, and especially his niece and nephew.”

It is significant the Dustin was with his family on his Departure/Encounter in New Orleans on Valentine’s Day 2015.

Dustin left a hole in my heart but it is filled by God’s love and his fond memories.