May 4, 2021

European Adventist Leader Herman Smit Dies at 87

Trans-European Division News, with Bert Smit

The Trans-European Division is sad to announce the death of Herman Jan Smit on May 1, 2021. Besides working in his native Netherlands, Smit served as communication director of what is now the Trans-European Division between 1980 and 1985, before moving on to become the first ADRA country director for Zambia and then serving as Greek Mission president from 1988 until his retirement in 1997.

Smit was born on May 10, 1933, in Groningen, a town in the north of the Netherlands. His father passed away just two years later. His childhood was quite broken as he followed his mother, who became a housekeeper to earn a living. For some time, he lived on a farm in Thessingen, a village near Groningen, where his mother found a position as housekeeper. Smit talked about those days with a particular fondness. His mother married the farmer when Smit was seven, and he was sent to the city to live with an aunt and uncle and attend primary school.

His mother was a Seventh-day Adventist. So, when Smit turned 14, he was sent to the Adventist boarding school at Oud Zandbergen, the Netherlands Union seminary, first attending high school and then studying theology.

There he met his wife, Ge Van der Horst. They married in 1956 as Smit took up his first placement as a pastor in Goes. Bert, their first child, was born in 1957, followed by Marcel, Ellen, and Alexander, who were born during the period he pastored three other churches, in Middelburg, Nijmegen, and Dordrecht.

In 1973 Smit moved to the Netherlands Union, first as youth director and then as Sabbath School and communications director. In 1980, he accepted a call to be the communications director at the Trans-European Division headquarters in St. Albans, England. With this move, the Smit family base in the Netherlands was gone, as two more moves led to service as ADRA director in Zambia and then as president of the Greek Mission.

In 1997 the Smits finally took early retirement and settled in Rijssen in the Netherlands, with their children now scattered between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Twenty-three years of retirement helped the couple develop a love of cycling. They purchased electric bikes and were proud of the nearly 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) they rode over the years. Where possible, especially in the earlier years of retirement, they traveled to see their children and grandchildren. In the past few years, due to deteriorating health, they did not see as much of them.

Those last years were more difficult as Smit slowly started to fade away amid vascular dementia, finally finding full rest as he passed away quietly in his sleep just after midnight on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.