Tributes poured in earlier today as 21 year old art prodigy, Jonathan Smith, was laid to rest. Smith’s past school mates from Hillview College, as well as his school mates from University of Pennsylvania, attended the funeral to pay tribute to the young life.
Smith, a Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Pennsylvania and young artist, lost his battle with cancer last week while in Trinidad. A Trinidad & Tobago born-national and member of the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT), Smith migrated to Pennsylvania in 2015 to attend the University, where he was part of the Caribbean student community.
According to a report from the Daily Pennsylvanian, Smith was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, during the July-August vacation of last year, while preparing for his first solo art exhibition, entitled Kyrie. The article further stated that Smith left the University on a medical leave of absence for ten months.
Smith was the only child of his parents, Hayden and Anna Smith who are both artists. In the Pennsylvanian article, Smith was described as a “thoughtful and passionate visual artist” and his mother described him as someone who loved adventure. “Transitioning from Trinidad to studying in Pennsylvania was just another adventure for him. That’s how he treated life: everything as a new adventure,” she said. She added that Smith showed other students how to “take a break and enjoy the moment,” whilst being students.
Chase Rapine, friend of Smith, said he remembered when he spent over three hours with Smith in a snowstorm and that he was “impressed” with Smith’s pictures. It was Smith’s first time seeing snow. “His love of art was ingrained in him; he was able to see the beauty in things that so many of us take for granted each day.”
Speaking with Newsday this evening, Acting President of the ASTT, Robert Ramkissoon, said the funeral was abundant with an “outpouring of love.” He added that though Smith was one of the ASTT’s younger members, he was “very active” and helpful. “We are an NGO so we are a highly dependent group on sponsors and things like that but Jonathan came forward and helped with graphic arts, creating invitations and stuff.” Ramkissoon described Smith and his parents as “very helpful” and that they helped in many ways. “Jonathan gave of his time and his services to help in any way,” Ramkissoon said.
Smith’s funeral took place earlier today at Belgroves Funeral Home in Tacarigua. According to Ramkissoon, the eulogy was read by a family friend and those who couldn’t make it, sent messages that were read aloud to the gathered friends and family.
The family thanked the University of Pennsylvania for their support in this time. Hayden Smith, his father, said he received “quite a few messages” from people he “never met before, but whose heart Jonathan has touched.”