The Very Rev. Thomas James Derito Smith

The Very Rev. Thomas James Derito Smith, retired priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, went to our Lord, on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.

A native of Derry, Father Tom was born Aug. 27, 1953, to the late Harry Earl and Sophia Anna (Derito) Smith. He was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith by the Rev. Thomas A. Connors, VF. He had been a priest for 39 years.

His primary and secondary education was received at the Derry Area School District of western Pennsylvania. Father Tom had his calling to become a priest at a very young age playing “church” with his siblings and cousins in their yard on Second Avenue in Derry. He began his studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph Hall Minor Seminary, Greensburg.

In his younger years, he was a member of the Derry Volunteer Fire Department and the Derry VFD Drum and Bugle Corps. Father Tom had a deep, operatic voice that could lead any chorus. He had also participated in the Derry Area High School musicals and was a self-taught organist. Upon graduation, he entered Holy Apostles College Seminary, Cromwell, Connecticut, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and a minor in theology in 1976. He completed his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, earning a master of divinity degree in 1982.

Father Tom was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Patrick, Norwich, on Saturday, May 22, 1982, by His Excellency the Most Rev. Daniel Patrick Reilly of Norwich; followed by his first Mass in the Church of St. Mary, Norwich, on Sunday, May 23, 1982.

Father Tom returned home for the following weekend to celebrate a first Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for his family and friends near his hometown of Derry in St. Martin Church, New Derry.

After ordination, Father Tom was appointed a parochial vicar, chaplain, teacher, student counselor and temporary administrator to various parishes, thereafter receiving his first pastorate. Father Tom was named pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, Rogers, St. Joseph Church, Dayville, St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, New London, and St. Sebastian Italian National Parish, Middletown, all in Connecticut.

He served on the Norwich Diocesan Finance Council, the Bishop’s Advisory Board for the Capital Campaign Fund Drive for Parochial Schools, the Diocesan “Response of Faith” Capital Campaign Executive PAC Committee, the Diocesan Schools Committee on Preschool Education, the Diocesan Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Insurance, Budget Finance Committee, and diocesan moderator of the Stella Maris Chapter of the Catholic Nurses Association. Father Tom was the dean / vicar forane of the New London Deanery and dean / vicar forane of the Middletown Deanery.

Father Tom was a 4th Degree member of the Murrysville/Trafford Assembly 2192 of the Knights of Columbus, Murrysville. As a Knight, he had been a faithful friar and chaplain to various K of C assemblies and councils throughout the Diocese of Norwich. Father founded the Knights of Columbus Council in Dayville/Rogers, Connecticut. He currently was a member of Manordale Valley Council 4226 of Murrysville.

Father Tom was a senior member of the Derry Volunteer Fire Department, past chaplain of the New London County Sheriff’s Department, member of the board of directors of the Shea Fund of New London, and the Covenant Shelter of New London. He was also present and past chaplain of many various fraternal organizations and church-related societies and organizations. Father Tom was a member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

Father Tom served as a prison chaplain in the Archdiocese of New York for the Department of Corrections for the State of New York at five of its correctional facilities until his appointment to the faculty of Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, on Aug. 15, 2011, in the formation of seminarians where he served as a member of the faculty. He taught homiletics and pastoral theology, was formation adviser and assistant spiritual director, and served there for a period of time as spiritual moderator/chaplain of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and with campus ministry at Mount St. Mary’s University.

Church festivals were one of his favorite pastimes, whether it was organizing great festivals or attending the fun. He loved spending time with the community, having pierogies and listening to polkas. Every Sunday he would put on the polka station or look to attend a polka fest if there wasn’t a Steeler game on television.

Father Tom was not only father of the churches he served but a father figure to his family and friends. He continued friendships from afar though the miles may have kept family and friends physically distant. He loved family gatherings, picnics, holidays and watching his niece and nephew play baseball and softball. When he couldn’t attend, he was always calling, or checking Facebook and Instagram to see how his family was doing. You couldn’t find a man more proud of his family.

His laughter was contagious. You couldn’t help but smile when you heard his deep bellowing laugh. Father Tom was a very serious man when he needed to be but making one happy was where he found joy. One could always expect to see a funny story or joke in their in-box followed by a prayer from Father Tom.

History was a favorite topic of Father Tom’s. He had a deep respect for our country, the military, our leaders and went to many parades showing his admiration.

Father Tom retired to Gables Manor, Latrobe, where he continued to serve daily Mass to the residents, staff and joining families. He counseled, listened, gave advice and prayed until his very last moments.

Father Tom is survived by his brother: Harry Earl Smith Jr. of Apollo; his sisters: MaryAnn Smith Kelly and her husband, Andrew, of The Villages, Florida, and Joanne Eleanor Smith Bernabei of Derry; four nieces and three nephews: Teresa Ann Kelly Romanchak and her husband, Joseph, Tina Marie Kelly Romano Marzolf and her husband, Dana, Todd Andrew Kelly and his wife, Jennifer, Harry Earl Smith III and his wife, Tamara, Melissa Marie Smith Krebs and her husband, Cory, Nicole Marie Bernabei Doherty and her husband, Nathan, and Nathan Michael Bernabei; four great-nieces and nine great-nephews: Kelly Sophia Romano, Emily May Smith, Lauren Marie Krebs and Sophia Elizabeth Doherty, Anthony Michael Romano, Matthew Joseph Romano, Andrew Joseph Romanchak, Austin Michael Romanchak, Lucas Michael Smith, Jack William Krebs, Maximilian Smith Doherty, Mark Douglas Krebs and Brandon Kelly; his extended family and long-life friends, Michael J. and Annette (Ellenberger) Quinlisk and their family, formerly of Derry.

He was preceded in death by his parents: Harry Earl Smith Sr. and Sophia Ann Derito; his maternal grandparents and godparents: Silvio and Fernanda Derito; his paternal grandparents: Earl and Jennie Bowers; his brother-in-law: Mario J. Bernabei; his sister-in-law: Patricia Ann Prah Smith; his mentor and dearest friend: the Rev. Method J. Mraz, OSB, of St. Vincent Archabbey, Unity Township, and formerly pastor of St. Martin Church, New Derry, and the best dalmatian and companion, Trent.

Father Tom had written a passage in his ordination acknowledgements that remains to carry deep sentiments: “Lastly, I thank the good Lord of heaven for giving me the gift of faith, the gift of the holy priesthood and the gift of all of you. I pledge to you my prayers, support, love, Masses, good works, sacrifices and my heart always. Yours in Christ now and always, Father Tom.”

Family, relatives and friends are invited to celebrate Father Tom’s life at Catholic funeral Mass 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, in St. Louise Chapel, 8200 McKnight Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237.

The family would like to thank the staff and residents at Gables Manor in Latrobe for caring for him in his last days. We know he felt they too were his family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Matthew X. Merlin Funeral Home Inc., 529 N. Chestnut St., Derry, PA 15627.

Additional services and burial will be in the family plot at St. Joseph Cemetery, Derry.