Lori A. Smyth, a former broadcast promotions director and animal lover who was a co-founder of Show Your Soft Side, a national anti-animal-abuse organization, died of bile duct cancer Saturday at her mother-in-law’s Reisterstown home. She was 53.
“Everything about Lori was big. She had a big voice, and everything you saw was who she was. She was a big presence,” said Sande Riesett, a co-founder and president of Show Your Soft Side.
“She was a force of nature and got rockers, athletes and celebrities on our posters. She had such a big heart for animals,” she said.
Robert Lang, anchor at WBAL-AM, was both a friend and a colleague. “Lori was a tireless advocate for animals, and that was her passion,” he said. “She and her wife, Malinda, had five dogs and six cats.”
Lori Ann Smyth was born in Philadelphia and raised in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Abington Senior High, she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1990 in communications from what is now Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania.
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Ms. Smyth began her career in broadcast promotion at WARM-AM in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Baltimore in 1996. She worked as promotions director at 98 Rock and WBAL-AM, until 2019.
In 1997, she met Malinda Davis, her future wife, who was program director for Baltimore radio station B-104, now known as WZFT. They married in 2012 and lived in Reisterstown.
“She was a tireless promoter of the station, and she made sure that all of our events were successful, whether it was for the Orioles and Ravens or the Polar Bear Plunge, which raises money for Special Olympics,” Mr. Lang said.
“She had many trainees, and she launched careers. She could be the big sister, drill sergeant or mother hen, but they all loved her. You couldn’t help but love Lori,” he said.
Ms. Davis said, “She had a heart of gold and was a mom to all of her radio kids.”
Several incidents of animal abuse inspired Ms. Smyth to get involved, including when Phoenix the dog was set on fire in 2009.
It was the maiming and torturing of cats and dogs that brought Ms. Riesett together with Ms. Smyth and Caroline Griffin, who was then chair of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Task Force.
Ms. Smyth shared the same outrage as Ms. Riesett, whom she did not know at the time, when Phoenix was killed.
“It was 2011, and I was so upset and I came up with this idea for Show Your Soft Side, and a friend said, ‘You have to meet Lori Smyth at 98 Rock,’” Ms. Riesett recalled. “We met, and within five minutes, she said, ‘I’m in.’”
The three women launched Show Your Soft Side that same year. They enlisted the support of actors, rock and country music stars and athletes, who agreed to appear on posters that were placed in schools as part of a public service campaign.
Supporters were called “Softies,” and Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson, who was joined by Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and MMA fighter John Rallo, appeared on the organization’s inaugural three posters, posing with their pets, with the slogan, “Only a punk would hurt a cat or dog.”
Their first campaign raised more than $200,000, and calls flooded in from all around the world.
Show Your Soft Side visited classrooms and financially supported health care and food initiatives for cats and dogs.
“We are not an animal rescue organization per se,” Ms. Riesett said. “We run a number of programs that have become lifelines for Baltimore’s homeless cats and Maryland’s abused and neglected dogs.
Ms. Smyth left 98 Rock and WBAL in 2019, and for the past several years had been an administrative assistant in the Hoffberger Breast Center at Mercy Medical Center, where she worked until last year, when she left on disability.
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Two years ago, Ms. Smyth was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare bile duct cancer.
“She spent her whole life taking care of others, and when she got sick, everyone came out of the woodwork to care of Lori,” Ms. Davis said. “I told her she was like George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ always trying to take care of people.”
She continued working with Show Your Soft Side as “best she could, given her health,” Ms. Davis said.
Because she was an avid Ravens fan, Ms. Smyth will be buried at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville in a “purple casket with gold-colored handles,” Ms. Davis said. “And those wishing to remember Lori can make donations to Show Your Soft Side.”
A celebration-of-life-gathering will be held from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 7 at the Irvine Nature Center at 11201 Garrison Forest Road in Owings Mills, where services will be held at 1 p.m. June 8.
In addition to her wife, Ms. Smyth is survived by a sister, Lisa McNaul of Lancaster; her in-laws, Tom and Bonnie Davis of Timonium and Linda Davis of Reisterstown; a brother-in-law, Tad Davis of Jersey City, New Jersey; a nephew; and two nieces.