Remembering the Life and Impact of Ken Smith

Kenneth (Ken) Smith, 62, of Sarasota, FL, died peacefully on March 7, 2023, at Tidewell Hospice House with his life partner, Patty LaRoche, by his side. He is also survived by his mother and stepfather, Wilma and Clinton Beauford of Pittsburgh, and his sister, Kathy Smith. Ken was preceded in death by his father, Roland Smith.

For 27 years, Ken coordinated and managed specialty programs for Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) at The Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh. Ken served on the PWSA l USA Board of Directors for 18 years and became the PWSA l USA executive director. He was greatly admired by parents, coworkers, medical professionals, and those who have PWS. In Ken’s final days, the many testimonies sent, all mentioned his intellect, great sense of humor and his calm and caring demeanor.

There will be a private memorial on Siesta Key beach at a later date.


Ken will always have my utmost admiration. Besides his extraordinary knowledge of the complexities of the syndrome, Ken had a very calm and caring demeanor. Through thousands of meetings, I never saw him lose his cool or professionalism. He always listened to both sides of an issue, and never imposed his ego in the situation. In fact, Ken liked to work more behind the scenes and uplift everyone else to the public. He was adored by all the children and young adults with the syndrome and admired by their parents. Ken was a true humanitarian with a gentle soul. His light shines on.

– Janalee Heinemann, Retired
Past positions with PWSA | USA: Executive director, medical and research coordinator, board member and board president, mother of a son with PWS


For the dozens of adults with Prader-Willi syndrome who may have been an inpatient at The Children’s Institute or attended a PWSA | USA Conference, Ken Smith represented one of the most recognizable and friendliest faces.  What set Ken apart was his ability to recall a detail about someone’s life that made them feel extraordinary. When the Adult Advisory Board first formed in 2003, Ken was one of the inaugural leaders, providing guidance and direction to adults who wanted their voices to be heard. His calm approach and sense of humor has left an unforgettable impression on the lives of many people with Prader-Willi syndrome over the years.

Mary K. Ziccardi, Regional Director, REM Ohio, Co-chair Professional Providers Board, past member PWSA | USA Board of Directors


Ken was always a bright light in the room with his contagious smile and unwavering positive attitude with everything. We will never really know how many lives he touched, but those of us that had the honor and privilege of knowing and being around Ken have been so lucky over all the many years he was there for us and our children.

– Tammie Penta, PWSA | USA board member and mother to Victor, living with PWS


Dear Ken: It is with a very heavy heart that we write this note. Our family owes you a deep debt of gratitude, from your life saving extra effort to get Kate admitted to your clinic in Pittsburg, to your velvet hammer handling of her, which sent her off on a new safer and healthier direction, to your years of service to the PWS community, to the many years of friendship, and finally your leadership of PWSA| USA during several stressful periods of change. You dedicated your life to special “friends” as you called them and their families. Many people, families, and the world are better off from what you unselfishly committed. You will be sorely missed in this world and I’m quite sure Our Lord will welcome with open arms into his world.

– Kit and Jim Kane (former PWSA | USA board member), parents to Kate, living with PWS


Dear Ken: I am so very sad to know you have been battling cancer. I have missed connecting with you these past few years; you have never been far from my thoughts. I hope you can feel my genuine and deep care I feel for you, along with so many others who have known you and valued your leadership and friendship. You have touched and improved so many lives. I am proud to know you, today and always, my friend.

– Lisa Graziano, former PWSA | USA board member, mother to Cameron, living with PWS

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