Smith's passing leaves void in hearts, city business - abc27 WHTM

Smith's passing leaves void in hearts, city business

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Until the day she passed away, Harrisburg councilwoman Eugenia Smith was a champion for public safety. Her sudden passing leaves a void in many ways.

Sandra Reid has been playing songs that remind her of Gina, however the pain of her loss has not subsided for days. Beyond serving on the same City Council, Reid and Eugenia Smith became close friends.

"Nobody understands the stress involved," councilman Brad Koplinski said.

Indeed, it has been dark days for council members. However, many light up when they talk about Smith's glowing legacy.

"She stood up in a very important time in this city," Koplinski said.

He pointed to Smith's recent fight to save "Station 6" in Shipoke. Just last Wednesday, Smith asked fellow council members to delay a vote on the fire union contract until a public meeting could be held, allowing residents an opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns.

On Friday – "shock."

Many have used that word as the describe where they were, what they were doing when they were told Smith, 53, had died of a heart attack.

Days prior, she discussed her feelings about the proposal to close the fire station.

"We're going to do all that we can to keep it open," Smith touted.

Many have said her passing leaves a void, a neighborhood without a champion.

"She wanted to make sure people of this community were taken care of and that the health, safety and welfare of them was paramount to her," Koplinski said.

Smith's meeting was scheduled for this past Monday, which was immediately canceled following the tragedy.

Harrisburg is in an unprecedented predicament.

Without a ratified fire union contract, the city has lost and continues to lose $17,000 a week. This has caused city financial managers to meet with Harrisburg Strong architect Steve Goldfield to devise ways to cover the widening gap.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse admits this point of contention was the topic of his last conversation with Smith.

"I deeply regret our last conversation," he said. "[The conversation] was sort of a harsh one."

Papenfuse said he spent the weekend with his wife and children and reflected on how precious life is.

"We should remember to always treat each other with kindness and respect," he said. "You never know when a tragedy like this is going to strike."

If anything, it is clear time is the most precious commodity.

According to the city council clerk, applications will be accepted, reviewed, and voted on by Council to appoint a person to succeed Smith. This will take time.

Council will have the task to pick a member to become public safety chair. This will take time.

Again, as time passes, the city continued to burn fire contract cash. Yet, it is clear that everyone in the city needs time to grieve, mourn, and reflect on the memory of Eugenia Smith.

Papenfuse said he wants Council to take the time they need to process and heal. The mayor made the point, even though city leaders may disagree or fight, they all strive towards serving the citizens of Harrisburg.

Like any family who fights at times, brothers and sisters always come together when needed most.

"I feel the same way," said Papenfuse. "And, my condolences go out to her family and fiance."

Council members said they plan to honor Smith by placing a purple sash on her chair during the next meeting. While there is a legislative session scheduled for next Tuesday, it is not clear if the meeting will take place.

Koplinski said he is not looking forward to that first meeting back without Smith.

"It's not going to be the same … with her not sitting in that chair," he said. "We miss her right now. And, we're going to continue to do so."

A funeral service will be held at The Forum, at 500 Walnut Street, on Saturday at noon, preceded by a viewing beginning at 9 a.m.

Burial will follow at the William Howard Day Cemetery in Steelton.


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