Rebecca A. Smith, Capital Gazette advertising assistant who held family and friends at center of her life

Rebecca Ann Smith made sure family, friends and workplace colleagues were the center of her life. They brought her joy, and those who knew her say she returned it abundantly.

“Everyone loved her,” said a cousin, Tammy Kaskel of Dundalk. “Becca was always patient, supportive and never jealous or envious. She’d do anything for anybody and didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”

“She had such promise in life,” said an uncle, Thomas A. Malinowski. “She was a good kid and never got into trouble.”

Ms. Smith, who worked as an advertising sales assistant for the Capital Gazette, lost her life in the June 28 attack on the newspaper’s Annapolis office. She was 34 and lived in Dundalk.

Ms. Smith was born in Baltimore and raised in North Point Village and later Fort Howard.

The daughter of Richard Smith and Beth Ann Malinowski, she was raised by her maternal grandparents, William Malinowski, a driver for County Ride, and Catherine Malinowski, a homemaker.

“I was very young then. I don’t know what I would have done without them,” said her mother, now Beth Rittenour, of Warren, Ohio. “Rebecca was such a beautiful person, and she’ll always be in my heart forever.”

Ms. Smith attended Battle Grove Elementary School and graduated in 2001 from Sparrows Point High School, where she excelled in field hockey, ran cross country and was an avid duckpin bowler.

“She also loved community theater and played the character A Star to Be in ‘Annie.’ She was in middle school then,” said Ms. Kaskel, who conducts a performing arts camp and works with special-needs children. “She had such a great voice, was very supportive, and wanted to see others succeed.”

Mr. Malinowski, who also lives in Dundalk, recalled his niece being a Pink Floyd fan when she was little. “I’d put on a Pink Floyd tape and she’d scoot her chair up to the TV.”

He said she also enjoyed camping.

“She always wanted to go with me,” he said. “I’d take the neighborhood kids and other nieces and nephews, and we had a lot of fun.”

“Our grandparents were very proud of Becca because she was the first person in our family to go to college,” Ms. Kaskel said. “She was a graduate of Villa Julie College, where she earned a degree in marketing.”

Ms. Smith held marketing positions with Press Box and the old Maryland General Hospital — now the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus — before joining the Capital Gazette last November as an advertising assistant.

“I found her to be a person of tremendous potential, and it is sad that we will never see her live up to that,” said Marty Padden, the newspaper’s advertising director. “We’re just heart-broken.”

Ms. Smith suffered from endometriosis, a tissue disorder, and referred to herself on Facebook as an “Endo Warrior.”

“It was very debilitating, but she still came to the office and soldiered on through it,” Mr. Padden said. “She had a great sense of humor and was so charming.”

Ms. Smith met and fell in love with Dewayne Poling, and they were engaged to be married. On Facebook, she called him her “softball fiance” and attended Mr. Poling’s games and traveled to team tournaments. She also wrote of Mr. Poling’s daughter from an earlier relationship as being “the best kid ever.”

“Becca wanted to get married and have her own family,” Ms. Kaskel said. “When she met Dewayne, he was what she had been waiting for.”

Kelli Peleska of Hanover, who played softball with Mr. Poling, told The Baltimore Sun in a June 28 interview that Ms. Smith had “the biggest heart.”

“Not only was Rebecca our advertising assistant, she grew to become a close friend of mine,” said Eleni Stylianou, a colleague who lives in Annapolis. “She was always so sweet and willing to help. She was a loving future stepmother to her fiance’s daughter.”

“She was always talking about her fiance’s daughter, about moving and her medical issues. We talked every day,” said close friend Selene San Felice of Baltimore, a Capital Gazette reporter who survived the shooting. “Rebecca was strong — that’s the first word that comes to mind, and she was so kind.”

Her grandmother died in 2004 and her grandfather in 2011. She was “devastated,” Mr. Malinowski said. “It hit her real hard.”

Ms. Kaskel said she continually returned to the center point of her life: her family.

“She was always there at family events, and always had been involved with my children, who are now grown,” she said. “She was godmother to my two daughters.

“She’d go to their dance recitals; you would never expected her not to be there,” Ms. Kaskel said. “She’d be there Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to watch my kids open their gifts.”

A visitation for Ms. Smith will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Duda-Ruck Funeral Home, 7922 Wise Ave., Dundalk, and again from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a memorial service following.

In addition to her parents, uncle, cousin and fiance, Ms. Smith is survived by another uncle, William Malinowski of Essex; a brother, Steven Rittenour of Fredericksburg, Va.; two sisters, Jamie Rittenour of Warren Ohio, and Cindy Rittenour, also of Fredericksburg; and numerous other cousins.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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