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Gene Smith

Obituary of Gene Smith

 January 13, 1936 - September 16, 2021






Rollin Eugene Smith passed away peacefully in his Santa Cruz home with his loving partner of 42 years by his side.  He was born in St. Louis, graduated from Washington University where he studied art, and lived in the St. Louis Central West End neighborhood in his 20s and 30s.  He was a founding partner and Head Chef of the renowned Duff’s Restaurant, where his art spirit was in everything he made.


Gene owned property in the country near the rural town of Black Missouri with several friends and lived with them communally in the 1970s.  He was the private chef for the Pulitzer family, who appreciated his food so much that they gave him their very own Pulitzer Prize in cooking.  He launched “Dinner at Eight”, a catering business serving Central West End clientele until he moved to Santa Cruz in 1977 to be the office manager of KFAT, a humorous, alternative radio station.  He cooked at several Santa Cruz restaurants and was the assistant to two UCSC Vice Chancellors before recreating “Dinner at Eight” in Santa Cruz, delighting people with his formal but easy-going dinners.  His artistic talent was visible in his cooking, in his paintings, in his floral arrangements and in his approach to life. Gene was known not only for his impeccable taste but also for his sweet, kind and gentle manner.


He was predeceased by his parents, Nina Wood Smith and John Alfred Smith, his brother Ted Smith and his son Timothy Carlson Smith.  He leaves his life partner Alan Savat, his sister Mary Duba of St. Louis, eight nieces and nephews, and many great and great-great nieces and nephews.


A celebration of his life will be held at a future date to be announced. Donations can be made to Hospice of Santa Cruz County or a charity of your choice.

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A Memorial Tree was planted for Gene
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel