Robert E. Lee Smith, Jr. “Bob” passed away early Thursday morning at home. He was 85 years old. He had a history of strokes and hypertension that compromised his health over the past few years and was blessed to have a group of dedicated caregivers that helped the family honor his wishes to remain at home. He is preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Shirley A. Dovell. Bob is remembered by his family and friends for his love and generosity, compassion for animals, he loved his dogs, and his unwavering pursuit for a deal. His nickname to friends, “bird dog.” This chase for a deal was probably a skill he acquired in his younger years as a gifted equestrian joining in fox hunts with his mother, Marie Ebel Smith.
An accomplished entrepreneur, Bob founded RELS, Inc. with Shirley. RELS is a successful landscape and trucking business located at 16400 Layhill Road adjacent to the historic Red Door Country Store. The store and surrounding property was purchased in 1935 by his late parents, Robert E. L. and Marie Smith, Sr. RELS was sold when Bob and Shirley retired, but continues to operate in their tradition.
After retirement, Bob continued to spend time at RELS, or as he would say, “up the farm,” until he was unable. Before his illness, he could often be seen driving around the Sandy Spring area in his Lincoln Navigator on his way to an appointment about a “note” he was “holding” or to pick up checks from his deals. Bob served on the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair Board for many seasons and could be seen at the annual fair, as he drove around the fairgrounds in a golf cart, checking on events and stopping to say hello to as many people as he could. So charming to everyone he met, upon learning about Bob’s passing remarks, include, “he was like a father to me,” “I’ve lost my boyfriend,” and “I’ve known him since I was six years old and he would say ‘hop up in this truck’ so we could drive to his next stop.” He was a member of the Farmer’s Club in Sandy Spring. Bob and Shirley were philanthropic, giving generously to Montgomery General Hospital, the Montgomery County Humane Society, Sandy Spring Museum and other community organizations.
Bob is survived by his sister-in-law Jean Dovell Lavin, four nieces and their spouses, Sheree Lavin Norton and Tony Norton, Catherine Lavin, Gina Lavin Speaks, and Kimberley Lavin Frye and Herbie Frye, five grandnieces and one grandnephew, five great-grandnephews and one great-grandniece. He is predeceased by a brother-in-law Clark W. Dovell and sister-in-law Thelma P. Dovell, as well as a niece, Donna Dovell Graybill and nephew, Christopher M. Norton. The family asks that contributions to his favorite organizations Montgomery General Hospital, Montgomery County Humane Society and the Sandy Spring Museum be made. A private internment is planned and a memorial service will be announced after the pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
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