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The Rev. Smith, 71, led St. Mary's

The Rev. Bernardine Smith, pastor of St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, died Tuesday (Nov. 19, 2002) at the church residence. He was 71.

Since 1997 he had battled cancer of the esophagus, a church spokesman said.

"These past five years have been a difficult period for him, but each day was a positive effort to be upbeat," the Rev. Brian Miller of St. Mary's said in a statement.

"His only complaint was that his illness did not permit him to fulfill his pastoral priestly duties to his people of St. Mary's."

Father Smith had led the landmark church on Fourth Street S since 1988 after serving as associate pastor of St. Cecelia Parish in Clearwater and the Little Flower Parish in Hollywood, Fla.

Born in Bayonne, N.J., he studied at Seton Hall University and graduated from St. Francis College in Loretto, Pa., in 1955.

Ordained in 1959, his first pastorate was at St. Agnes Parish in Pittsburgh. He later served as director of Franciscan Third Order Regular missions and as chaplain of the Blue Army Shrine in Washington, D.C.

Survivors include three cousins, William Smith, Bayonne, and Russell and Helen Buscemi, both of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Reception of the body will be at 3 p.m. Friday at the church with a vigil service at 7 p.m. Bishop Robert N. Lynch will celebrate a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday. Burial will be in Loretto.

Memorials may be made to the church, 515 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

John S. Rhodes, East Chapel, is in charge.