Michael J. Smit, a nurse practitioner at Sinai Hospital, died April 1 from complications of influenza and pneumonia. He was 53.
A Baltimore County native and Roland Park resident, Mr. Smit worked in a number of roles at Sinai Hospital, including positions in the intensive care unit, in bariatric surgery care and later running the hospital’s hepatitis C treatment clinic.
“Mike was a caregiver; he loved taking care of people. He wanted to be a nurse because he really loved the hands-on part of it, and he got in there with people. He was very compassionate, he was very real and honest with people, and they responded to it,” his husband, Dr. Chris Beyrer, said. “His patients knew that he had their back.”
Dr. Sudhir Dutta, Mr. Smit’s supervisor and a gastroenterologist, worked with Mr. Smit for years, and remembered him for his rapport with patients.
“All the patients were very happy with him because that was his style — he was a very loving guy, a very caring guy and very honest,” Dr. Dutta said. “I don’t have the ability to communicate with patients in the way that Mike did. He got down on their level.”
Outside the hospital, Mr. Smit was active in local gay sports leagues, an avid traveler and a “ruthless” word puzzler. He helped found a gay bowling league — the Charm City Kings & Queens — and bowled Monday nights. After 12 years in the league, he bowled his first 200 weeks before he got sick, friend and bowling partner Robert Fahey said.
He said Mr. Smit always presented a positive attitude.
“In the lull of the conversation, Mike would just say, ‘Living the dream,’” Mr. Fahey said.
Mr. Smit and Dr. Beyrer enjoyed traveling to far-flung destinations — from London to Italy to South Africa. They went on four safaris together, most recently in South Africa in December 2017, Dr. Beyrer said.
“There’s nothing he enjoyed more in life than sitting quietly in a family herd of elephants,” Dr. Beyrer said. “He just loved them and was very into their peace and depth.”
Mr. Smit’s interest in history — particularly his obsession with British royals — took them to London. Before his death, Mr. Smit was reading a biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, and he once spent hours in line waiting to see her grave.
A little royal family trivia helped seal the connection between Mr. Smit and Dr. Beyrer on the night they met. Dr. Beyrer remembered locking eyes with his future husband from across the bar at Mount Vernon’s now-shuttered Club Hippo, where they were attending a Baltimore Pride festival after-party.
“He walked over to me and he said, ‘You look like the smartest man in the room,’” Dr. Beyrer said. “He would only give his phone number if I could name the six wives of Henry VIII … I only got four right.”
But four out of six was enough to start their 22-year relationship. Shortly after gay marriage was legalized in Maryland, the couple wed on April 12, 2013.
On their wedding day, Dr. Beyrer recalled Mr. Smit was the only one in their small party at the courthouse who wasn’t crying.
“He looked right at me and said, “Why would I be crying? This was the happiest, proudest day of my life,’ ” Dr. Beyrer said. “Our marriage meant a lot to other LGBT people, sort of thinking and looking at what … a life with dignity and rights could be about.”
The couple enjoyed hosting social gatherings.
When he wasn’t playing tennis on Sundays, Mr. Smit would complete the New York Times crossword puzzle (in ink). He had a way with word games, Dr. Beyrer said.
“He played Scrabble as though it was poker,” Dr. Beyrer said. “He was ruthless and very, very good at it.”
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Mr. Smit also enjoyed live music and theater, and he held a devotion to the “great divas,” Dr. Beyrer said. Mr. Fahey traveled with the couple to shows on what he called their “dying divas tour.” They saw acts like Barbra Streisand, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, Loretta Lynn and Carol Burnett, Dr. Beyrer said.