Butterfly Expert Will Be Sorely Missed

Richard H. Smith leads a serpentine barrens butterfly hike 
It is with indescribable sadness that the family of Richard (Dick) H. Smith, Jr. of Columbia, Maryland, announced his unexpected death today, just four weeks before he was scheduled to lead his annual September Barrens Butterfly Hike at Soldiers Delight on September 4.

Dr. Smith died this morning at 6:00 a.m. at 71 years of age from complications sustained after sudden cardiac arrest while jogging at his vacation home in Driggs, Idaho. Dick remained strong and active throughout his life. He loved spending time with his family and enjoyed going for morning and evening runs, especially in natural spaces like those that surrounded his Idaho vacation home. In his last moments, Dick was truly doing something that he loved.

Richard Smith was born on September 7, 1944, near Baltimore, Maryland, weighing in at a robust ten pounds according to the family farm's chicken scale. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1966 and his PhD in 1971 from Johns Hopkins University. He lived most of his life in Columbia, Maryland, where he worked as an electrical engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab for over forty years. He recently retired in 2015.

Throughout his life, Dick balanced his interest in physics with a love of nature. Dick championed environmental stewardship and was incredibly active in the Maryland Entomological Society and the Lepidopterist Society throughout the Delmarva area. He was Secretary of the Maryland Entomological Society (MES).

Lepidoptery is the study of butterflies and moths, and Dick was known as an authority on the subject. He led outdoor learning expeditions and openly shared his logs and observations with others who studied these beautiful, elegant creatures. He was coordinator of butterfly species records for Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia for the United States Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) website, "Butterflies and Moths of North America".  He compiled a comprehensive listing of the resident, annually migrating and immigrant butterflies of the Washington, DC area, which he described as "an accurate and realistic representation of what most butterfly enthusiasts, with some luck and perseverance over a period of several years, could actually find in the DC area". Another butterfly enthusiast summed up Dick's presence in this community, thanking him not only for his "many years of butterfly knowledge and experience", but also "for offering brilliant guidance, thought-provoking discussions and incredible patience in answering my incessant questions".

The board of directors at Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. is especially saddened to learn of Dick's passing. He was a stalwart voice of preservation of our wild and natural conserve, noting that some of the rarest butterflies in the world call the serpentine barrens of Soldiers Delight their home. His death is a tragic loss for all those who love our fragile ecosystem and the delicate winged inhabitants who flit among the grasses there.

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