B. Smith, whose full name was Barbara Elaine Smith, former model, and successful restauranter passed away after a seven-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease on Saturday. She was 70.
The news was announced by her husband, Dan Gasby, on the couple’s official Facebook page. He wrote, “It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith. B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 p.m., of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York.”
“Thank you to Dr. Sam Gandy, East End Hospice, and additional caregivers who helped us make B. comfortable in her final days. Thank you to all the friends and fans who supported B. and our family during her journey. Thank you to everyone for respecting our privacy during this agonizing time. Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile.”
Smith was first diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers in 2013 and with the goal of raising awareness of the disease’s effects on the African-American community, she and Gasby, along with Michael Shnayerson, penned the book, Before I Forget, which was published in 2016. It described the difficulty of dealing with the day-to-day challenges of brain disease and discussed the hope of research finding a treatment one day.
As her main caregiver, Gasby never sought outside help to care for his wife of 27 years, and their daughter, Dana Gasby, 33, moved home to assist him. However, Gasby controversially found love and light in his relationship girlfriend Alex Lerner, 53, who eventually moved in to live with the family in their East Hampton home.
1. Gasby Received Death Threats After Going Public With His Relationship With Girlfriend Alex Lerner
In an interview with The Washington Post, Gasby heartbreakingly discussed how his wife’s brain was ravaged, and could no longer speak in coherent sentences.
Gasby said it’s easy for those who’ve never personally cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to criticize. Gasby told People, “It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with. Anybody who is an Alzheimer’s caregiver knows exactly what other caregivers are going through. It’s 24/7. The complexity and the intensity of it is very tough.”
Not wanting to live a lie, Gasby went public with his relationship with Lerner on December 18, 2018. He captioned the picture, “To steal the title from 50 Cent & The Game “Hate it or Love it!” You can debate, but for me I’m just feelin’ great! Life’s to short to ask for a rebate so I’m gonna surf ? thru life before it’s toooo late!!! #whylie.”
2. Gasby Described Their Living Situation As ‘If ‘This is Us’ and ‘Modern Family’ Came Together’
B. Smith’s husband opened up about how difficult it was taking care of his ailing wife in early 2019. He told People, “I was tired. I was miserable. I could have put my wife in an institution, but I love her. It’s just a different type of love now.”
After Gasby allowed cameras into his home with B. Smith to show how all three were living in harmony, he was heavily criticized in the media. Fans online called for intervention, many were upset he was now dating a white woman and was “flaunting” her around. One person commented on his Facebook post, “You don’t bring your mistress in the house where your WIFE lives. She’s not dead.”
The View‘s Whoopi Goldberg and Sunny Hostin shared their dislike of the situation on the daily talk show. “I find it very disrespectful that he is with his wife and disrespecting her by being with his girlfriend in their home,” Hostin said.
3. B. Smith’s Step-Daughter Dana Defender Her Father & Approved Of His Relationship With Alex
Dana clapped back at those trashing her father, who moved home in 2016 to help take care of the stepmother who helped raise her since she was 5 years old. Dana told People of the criticism on The View, “These fraudulent friends know nothing. I have not seen them here. They don’t call my family. I see them talking on TV and how do you know what your supposed ‘friend’ would want?”
She also didn’t feel like allowing The Washington Post’s cameras into their home was overexposure, but more a dose of reality for those helping care for loved ones dying of Alzheimer’s disease. She said, “Guess what—this is what aging is.”
4. Alex Lerner, A Vegan Chef & Radio Host, Helped Care For B. Smith
Gasby first met Lerner in 2017 while hanging out at a bar in the Hamptons. “We were friends,” Lerner said, adding she had previously met Gasby at charity events. Lerner was a divorced mother of three at the time and told The Washington Post, “I didn’t want to go out with a married man.”
However, Lerner realized that Gasby “is not a man cheating on his wife. What I admire about him is that he takes care of her,” and she too, moved in to help. “If I can be compassionate to her… if I can do anything for her, it makes me feel good.”
5. While Tributes To B. Smith Poured Online Following The News Of Her Death, Critcism Of Gasby Continued
Whether fans online or fellow celebrities approved or dissaproved of B. Smith’s lifestyle, heartfelt tributes to the lifstyle guru filled Twitter on Sunday. Al Roker tweeted a photo of himself with Smith and Gasby writing, “We lost legendary fashion model, chef, restaurateur, lifestyle icon and magazine publisher, B Smith today. 70 years old, she and her husband, Dan Gasby were at the forefront of #alzheimers #research for people of color. Love to them and daughter, Dana. #bsmithwithstyle.”
However, some users online couldn’t accept that Gasby shared B. Smith’s final years with a live-in girlfriend.