His was a success story.
As told in the newspaper, it was a modest story, a humble one, as would befit a man who relied so strongly on his faith.
But when Kenneth Cecil Smith was just 55, the story came to an end when he was killed by a drunken driver.
The driver, 26-year-old Christopher Sheffield of Kernersville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty this week to felony death by motor vehicle and driving while impaired. He was sentenced to 20 to 33 months in prison.
The crash, which took place at 9 o’clock the night of December 2, 2010, happened when Sheffield hit the victim’s motorcycle with his Jeep. His blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent.
The crash ended a life of service.
Image by Geograph/P Flannagan
The motorcycle rider himself had overcome a drinking problem when he was a youth. Kenneth, sometimes known as “Kenny” to his friends, had spent the years since mentoring young men who struggled with alcohol, and was still an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
At the time of his death, he was helping an Iraq War veteran get back on his feet.
His mother said that Kenneth was a generous man who devoted his life to caring for others. He took care of his wife, who passed away a year before he did, and of his mother, nursing her after she broke her leg earlier in the year.
His obituary described him as “a very active member” of his church, and said he was a past president of the Winston-Salem Christian Motorcyclists Association, and was always available for charitable activities. Their website posts his photo and says that “he served quietly and never required recognition.” The obit even listed his “canine survivors” – homeless dogs he had taken in (Missy, Rockford, Nickie, Maverick and Bentley).
Mourners’ comments on his online guestbook said things such as “Kenny was a great person to me,” “how good he was to all,” and “he was a true friend and a brother in Christ.”
For some people, the power alcohol holds over them is a dreadful thing. In this case, it led a young man to take to the road and kill another human being. This crime stole a beloved son from his mother and a friend from the community. Society lost a man who worked to prevent the abuse of the very drug that became the source of his death.
And the man who caused this death will pay a price as well. He will do his time, and come out of prison with a stain on his record that will last the rest of his life. Remorse will haunt him all his days as well.
Kenneth’s mother said she prays that the young man will turn his life around and do the kinds of things her son did.
I admire her attitude, but I wonder if good deeds will ever be enough to atone for the heartache he caused or to free him of his guilt.