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Kirby F. Smith, 78, a public relations specialist and later, a teacher

Mr. Smith was a public relations man in the style of the press agents seen in old movies. He liked to show up in the newsroom of big newspapers and schmooze with reporters.

Kirby F. Smith
Kirby F. SmithRead moreCourtesy of the Smith Family (custom credit)

Kirby F. Smith, 78, of Philadelphia, a public relations specialist and later a teacher, died Thursday, Nov. 7, at Einstein Medical Center of complications from a fall a week earlier.

His wife, Mary Ellen, said Mr. Smith died without ever regaining consciousness.

Mr. Smith was a public relations director at various times for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the University of the Arts, and the University of Pennsylvania.

In the style of press agents seen in old movies, he liked to deliver news releases in person and to schmooze with reporters. He was a frequent visitor to the newsrooms of The Inquirer, the Daily News, and other newspapers during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

“He was very good at taking reporters and artists and putting them together for lunch,” his wife said.

Starting in 2000, he spent 13 years working as the public information director for New England College in Henniker, N.H., and the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover.

In 2013, he and his wife returned to Philadelphia to be near family. That year, he retired from the communications field and became a substitute teacher at the Laboratory Charter School in the Wynnefield section of the city. He told his wife that the teaching post was his favorite job.

“He just found he liked being with children,” his wife said. “Because he was a substitute, he had a certain freedom in what he taught. He enjoyed exposing the children to some [areas of learning] they might not otherwise have known.”

Mr. Smith was born in Manila, Philippines, eight months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was the son of Tamara Seredkina, who came from Irkutsk, Russia, and Alfred T. Smith of North Attleboro, Mass., a civilian Navy employee.

Seredkina and her mother had fled the Bolshevik regime in 1917, making their way to Manchuria and then to Manila, where she met Smith. They married on a dock in Manila in 1940, Mary Ellen Smith said.

After the Japanese invaded the Philippines, starting on Dec. 8, 1941, Mr. Smith and his mother were detained in Japanese prison camps for the remainder of the occupation. His father had enlisted in the Navy and was captured by Japanese troops. He died when the Japanese prison ship in which he was being transported was attacked by Allied forces unaware that Americans were aboard, Mary Ellen Smith said.

Mr. Smith and his mother were liberated in April 1945 and moved to North Attleboro, his father’s hometown. His mother met and married Raymond Hulme, and the couple raised Mr. Smith in Pawtucket, R.I., where he attended public schools.

Mr. Smith moved to Philadelphia in 1959 to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1963. He was a member of St. Mary’s Church Hamilton Village on the Penn campus for many years.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Nicholas, and two grandsons.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at St. Mary’s Church Hamilton Village, 3916 Locust Walk. Burial is private.

Donations may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Box 60173, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102, or via