Sylvia Smith Roth died in her sleep Tuesday night at her home in Raleigh. She was 97 years old.
She was born Sylvia Smith in Manhattan, New York, on June 18th, 1924, the first child of Louis Koval Smith and Hannah Barewitz Smith. As a young child she lived in The Bronx, New York, and then in Jamaica, Queens, in the family’s first house, near Hillside Avenue. Sylvia was an accomplished product of the New York City public school system. She used her high school degree and her good head for figures in a variety of jobs in Manhattan and elsewhere, including in the music publishing industry. Late afternoons and evenings, she and her mother listened to the business report on the radio and transcribed fractionated stock prices as they monitored Louis Smith’s stock portfolio.
In summer 1962, she married Jacob (Jack) Roth, who taught French in New York City public high schools. They lived together first in the Forest Hills section of Queens, where she knew all of the bank personnel and merchants, then further out in Windsor Terrace, Queens, where she still knew all of the Forest Hills bank personnel and merchants. The radio was often on — the Metropolitan Opera on Sundays, and the Yankees, Mets, Knicks and football Giants, in their respective seasons, not to mention stock prices, while that was still a radio thing. Sylvia and Jack traveled throughout the Northeast U.S. and Canada, went to the theater, in Manhattan, and enjoyed the local food. They always knew the value of good bagels in, and good Italian out.
Sylvia and Jack Roth did not have children of their own, but doted on their niece Joanne and their nephews Herb and Eliot, the children of Syl’s brother Joel and his wife Barbara. Their apartment was always open to them and their friends — also their hearts. Sylvia was never anything but amused by and proud of her family. In later years, this was extended to her niece and nephews’ spouses and their children; she always wanted to know what was going on with everybody.
After Jack died in 1987, Syl was the same, but life was that much different. She stayed in their apartment for another three decades. She kept friends and traveled when she could. She always had warm friends and close neighbors — just as she had had when she was younger, as Syl was a generous person interested in others, with an appreciative and sardonic sense of humor. Her last several years were spent in Wake County, North Carolina, in the gravitational field of her brother Joel’s family. Syl was a New Yorker par excellence — all she had to do was open her mouth, the accent was unmistakable — yet she surprised herself by taking quickly, even at a very advanced age, to the good things and good people she found in North Carolina.
After Jack Roth, Syl was predeceased by her beloved sister-in-law, Barbara Vorsanger Smith, in 2019, and her younger brother Joel, eight months prior, in 2020. She is remembered ever-so-fondly by Herbert and Sharon Smith and their children Stephen Jacob, Thomas Louis, and Harry Samuel; by Joanne and Tim Rhode and their children Rachel and Leah; by Eliot and Page Smith and their children Thomas Koval and Marie Page — the many names of grand-nephews and grand-nieces associated with Sylvia Smith Roth and prior generations of her family attesting to the love and respect she engendered among her nephews and niece.
Back to New York: Sylvia Smith Roth will be buried in Acacia Cemetary in Ozone Park, Queens, New York, next to her husband Jacob Roth and her parents, Louis and Hannah Smith.
Arrangements are being handled by Kehila Chapels, Inc. 60 Brighton 11th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11235.