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Restaurateur B. Smith Dead at 70; Had Battled Alzheimer's

Restaurateur B. Smith Dead at 70; Had Battled Alzheimer's
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B. Smith, famous for the restaurants that bore her name and as a TV host and lifestyle expert, died Saturday at her Long Island home. She was 70.

In a statement shared on social media, Smith's husband Dan Gasby wrote, "It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith. B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease."

Thanking her caregivers, he went on to say, "Thank you to all the friends and fans who supported B. and our family during her journey. Thank you to everyone for respecting our privacy during this agonizing time. Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile."

Smith — whose first name was Barbara — had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2013, while she was at the peak of her powers as a businesswoman and lifestyle guru. She had become a force following a modeling career that included being one of the first black women on the cover of Mademoiselle, in 1976.

Her diverse career — which included a 2011 stint on Broadway, a series of books on entertaining and cooking, and the syndicated series "B. Smith with Style" — made her an icon to many, and her diagnosis brought awareness to the dark journey of those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, and their loved ones. To further that good work, Smith and Gasby published the 2016 memoir "Before I Forget," documenting her rapid decline.

Smith is survived by Gasby, who was her second husband, and her stepdaughter.

In 2019, Gasby faced public criticism wen he revealed that he was romantically involved with another woman, Alex Lerner, while caring for his famous wife. Gasby told "Today" — on which Smith had made many appearances — that he went public with his relationship because his wife had urged him to be honest about it.

Gasby and Lerner compared his 24/7 caretaking of his wife to a single father's duties toward a child, noting she had become "very child-like" as her disease progressed. "Taking care of someone like B., even having someone who is taking care of her periodically... the weight of every minute of the day is a blanket on you," he said "And (Lerner) was funny. The most important thing, she was kind. And we became friends, and that friendship got closer and closer."