MANSFIELD -- Geneva "Kay" Smith spent her life giving her heart to others. Sadly, it was her own heart that failed her over the weekend.
The 40-year-old Smith, a community organizer at the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, who recently underwent open-heart surgery, died from complications at the Cleveland Clinic.
The Mansfield Senior High School graduate's death saddened everyone with whom she had worked, which was seemingly everyone in Mansfield.
"It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our dear Kay Smith. Kay was a phenomenal woman, a loving mother and a true leader in our community. We are committed to continuing to honor Kay's work in community organizing, youth development, and anti-violence. She loved the work she led at NECIC: The North End Elder program, Neighbor Up Night, Mansfield Community Against Violence, My Brothers Keeper and Open Tables," the NECIC said on a social media post.
"At NECIC, Kay has been far more than a co-worker. She has been our sister and friend. We are honored to have been part of such a rich, though far too brief, experience with her," the organization said.
NECIC Executive Director Deanna West-Torrence said Smith had a long history of heart issues and had been ill for some time. But no one had anticipated her passing, West-Torrence said.
The NECIC Facebook page was filled with expressions of sympathy from the community.
West-Torrence said Smith's efforts expanded far beyond her work for NECIC, an organization Smith joined in 2016 and became full-time in 2017.
"We were her job, but she had her own work, and that work was anti-violence," she said. "That was her life. That was her purpose. Stopping violence was the thing she cared most about.
"The work she was doing to reduce gun violence fit in very well with the job we had here. She worked with youth, veterans, elders, business people, elected officials, law enforcement, hospitals, churches. She was a community organizer who worked with everyone. She was 40 years old and she packed a lot of living into those 40 years. She was tireless and impacted a lot of people.
"Kay was just a very, very loved person. She left her work and her wishes here and we will do the best we can to move them forward."
Smith was the community coordinator for the Mansfield Community Against Violence, which joined Mansfield police and others in "focused deterrence strategies" after the group visited High Point, N.C. and observed a smiliar program.
Smith's cousin, Cheyla Bradley, is the communications intern at NECIC, a job she obtained when Smith vouched for her.
"She had a heart condition for as long as I have known her," Bradley said. "The thing I will remember most is she had such a great heart, even though her own wasn't working well."
Brigitte Coles, who helped to found the community group We ACT in 2015, praised Smith.
"Kay Smith was a powerful ally for victims of crime and an advocate for those seeking a second chance in our justice system," said Coles, who worked with Smith on countless community projects.
"She was a passionate voice for love and peace in our community. We should all be committed to carrying on her legacy and come together as a community to love her family and each other.
"I will miss my beautiful sister and friend," Coles said.
Bradley said Smith was active in her church, the New Community Temple C.O.G.I.C. on Harker Street in Mansfield.
We ACT co-founder Angel Ross-Taylor also recalled Smith.
"I find it ironic that the beautiful soul that was Kay Smith passed from this life on a Sunday. She always described Sunday as 'her best day, her strength day.' Kay was a beautiful spirit that always made you feel loved when you were in her presence," Ross-Taylor said. "She had a caring, genuine heart and even up until the end, she was concerned about our community. She really cared about reducing violence in our community and was a passionate advocate for all people.
"Kay’s legacy will live on through her children, her family and the positive impact she’s made in this community."