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Local hospice chaplain dies of COVID-19 after visiting coronavirus patients

Posted at 9:44 PM, Jan 02, 2021

PHOENIX — A Valley hospice chaplain for COVID-19 patients passed away on New Year's Day from COVID-19.

Dr. Larry Smith, an ordained minister for First institutional Baptist Church, lost his battle against COVID-19 after 19 days in the hospital.

Smith, 70, worked as a hospice chaplain for people dying of COVID-19, bringing them comfort in their final moments of life.

"Just think of what they do," said First Institutional Baptist Church Pastor Warren Stewart. "They help people to die peacefully, and in a spiritual atmosphere."

Stewart, a longtime friend and mentor to Smith, was at Smith's bedside when he passed away at Chandler Regional Medical Center.

"He kept saying, 'Pastor I’m tired. I’m tired.' And I said, 'Does that mean you’re ready to die?'" said Stewart. "He said yes."

In December, Smith visited a patient in Kingman who was dying of COVID-19. The next day, as Stewart said, Smith became sick.

"They told him, 'Chaplain, it’s a hothouse for COVID.' Yet he drove to Kingman. He saw his patient. His patient didn’t have a mask on. He drove back to Phoenix. He got sick the next day."

"John 15:13 'Greater love hath no person than this, than one who lays his life down for his friends.' Larry literally gave his life to the hospice, on behalf of a hospice patient. Look at the irony in that," said Stewart.