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'Singing Jack' Smith succumbs to cancer at 87

He and his wife, "Dancing Leona,'' frequently performed at senior centers, nursing homes and festivals.


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001

INVERNESS -- John W. "Singing Jack" Smith, half of the popular entertainment duo of Singing Jack and Dancing Leona, died at his home Tuesday (May 15, 2001). He was 87.

Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at Chas. E. Davis Funeral Home, 307 U.S. 41 S, Inverness, with a Mass at 1 p.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Inverness.

Mr. Smith and his wife, whose professional name is Dancing Leona, performed at virtually every art festival, nursing home and senior center in Citrus County during their 12 years of marriage. Mr. Smith previously performed with his own "Kitchen Band" since arriving in Citrus in 1970.

Mr. Smith had been battling cancer since December, according to his wife. He underwent radiation, chemotherapy and finally surgery.

"He died in his bed. I was holding his hand and he looked at me with those blue eyes. He couldn't speak, but I could tell by his eyes that he was at peace with it and he wanted to go," Leona Smith said.

Singing Jack and Dancing Leona stopped performing in November. "I was his caregiver, 24 hours a day, until hospice came to help us two days before he died," Mrs. Smith said.

Many of the senior center and nursing home administrators and patients who were entertained through the years by Singing Jack and Dancing Leona have called to express their condolences.

"They've really helped me lift my spirits a little," Mrs. Smith said.

Rosemarie Cutchins, project coordinator at the senior citizens center in Lecanto, said she will miss the duo's appearances.

"This was their home base," Cutchins said. "He was with us since the beginning, about 15 years ago, and since they got married, they performed here about once a week. They were very popular and were always working on ways to improve their act.

"We are all like family here, and we've lost a family member and we'll miss him terribly," she said.

Mr. Smith and his wife were both widowed and met at one of Mr. Smith's shows at a Baptist church in Inverness in the late 1980s. They would have celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary in June.

During their shows, Mr. Smith sang and played the drums. His costume was typically a tuxedo, with a bow tie and a sharp hat. Dancing Leona, a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, would perform with him. Her signature move is the high-heel kick, above her head, in Rockettes fashion.

Mr. Smith moved to Citrus County 31 years ago from Lindenhurst, N.Y., where he was a professional entertainer and also owner of the Jack Smith Oil Co.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by a son and three daughters, a stepson and stepdaughter, a brother, two sisters and numerous nephews, nieces, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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