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Sat12052020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

They work together, act together, cook together and laugh together. Dori and Rupert Smith are an example of how committed couples can inspire and support each other to become the best they can be, both individually and as a couple.

Dori, currently president of Democrats of the Desert, was born 70 years ago in Madera, Calif., before being raised in Virginia. She was born second in a family that includes two sisters and a brother. “My mom grew up typically Italian in New York,” she says, “and I would describe her as ebullient: She loved to dance and was a lot of fun, but she also was the one who helped to unionize the tool-and-die company where she worked when we were kids. My dad was a hard-working man who just wasn’t around a lot.

“I was once told that the second-oldest always gets into trouble, and I certainly did. I got pregnant and married very young, but then I finished high school. I waited 10 years before deciding to go back to college, majoring in journalism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and had worked up until then in the public-affairs department at GTE. After I finished my degree, I came back as a mid-level manager.”

Rupert, 73, was born and raised in Arcadia, Fla. “I was an only child,” he says, “with a pessimistic, introvert mother who was married to an optimistic, extrovert father. I don’t remember my mom ever being overtly happy. She saw the world as black and white, and I had to learn that isn’t true. Somehow, they made me into an idealist who looks for the good in other people. Of course, taken to an extreme, that can be a problem, but I start from a position of trust with everyone.”

Rupert also studied journalism in college, at the University of Florida. He also spent some time in the Army (“They put me in the information office for a while”) and then went into public relations and marketing at GTE.

“They saw my Army experience—and I ended up there for 24 years,” he said.

Dori and Rupert met while working with GTE-Southeast in Durham, N.C. With a clear note of pride, Rupert describes Dori as having been hired as a secretary, but being ambitious enough to go back to school and get her degree so she could come back to the company in management. Rupert was the youngest vice president in the company’s history at that time, and at one point was moved to Connecticut. Dori had taken a job in Indiana after her divorce.

“We finally got tired of flying back and forth, and moved in together in Connecticut in 1987,” says Rupert.

Rupert’s first marriage of 15 years had produced two sons; Dori’s first marriage of 18 years had produced a son and daughter. “We moved in together in 1987 and married in 1994, and we all have a good relationship,” says Rupert.

What makes it work? “He’s patient, kind and generous,” says Dori. “He always encourages me in everything I want to do, and helps me with whatever it takes.”

Says Rupert: “I let her do whatever she wants, and she’s the same with me. If you start thinking about changing the other person, you’re ultimately doomed. I think about a relationship as a three-legged stool: trust, respect and a common sense of humor—the ability to laugh at the same things. I still smile whenever Dori enters a room.”

The Smiths have been Palm Desert residents for 21 years. They began working together locally doing public relations, primarily for local theatrical groups, and both have become involved in local theater themselves. Rupert originally got involved in acting while in Connecticut.

“I needed something that would fit my creative side. I was told to try acting and got involved with a Wilton playhouse. I tried out and got the part, and it wasn’t difficult, because I had done so much public speaking in my job.”

Working with Script to Stage to Screen (S2S2S), both Rupert and Dori have starred in and been nominated for awards in staged readings. During the pandemic, when nothing is being staged for audiences, Rupert has been writing and producing video works for S2S2S that are available online.

For Dori, she started acting when Gina Bikales, the head of S2S2S, asked her to read a part. “I thought it would be fun to do something onstage with Rupert,” she says.

Both have also helped the theater company with website design, public relations and marketing.

“Dori can’t sit still,” says Rupert. “She has to be doing multiple things at the same time.”

Says Dori: “I am always extremely busy. I started the Executive Women’s Golf Association, and that’s how I met women friends when we came to the desert. I also started Moms Demand Action here in the Coachella Valley in response to the gun violence against children across the country.

Dori attributes her current position as president of Democrats of the Desert (DOD) to something her mom said. “When I was a kid, I remember my mom always said, ‘Vote! Vote the whole Democratic ticket! Vote! Vote! Vote!’ I heard about a meeting of Democratic Women of the Desert and started getting involved. I worked to elect Congressman Raul Ruiz, and worked on Barack Obama’s campaign. When I joined DOD, I realized I’d like to lead the organization. I have a terrific board, and we’re holding Zoom meetings and social events. It’s a real challenge to keep people involved with all we’re going through right now.”

Dori had tap-dancing on her bucket list, so she took lessons and is now dancing with her group, including getting a spot in the McCallum Theatre’s Open Call. “But I try to relax, take a nap daily and read,” she says. “I do have a deep need to stay busy. I wish I still had the energy I had 10 years ago.”

Did I mention the cooking? Dori is constantly posting pictures of the beautiful meals Rupert prepares, and together, they make scrumptious pies.

Rupert’s advice to his younger self? “Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.”

Dori’s? “Slow down. Enjoy every minute.”

Dori and Rupert Smith are an example of how a committed couple can inspire and support each other—and, in the process, inspire us all.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

It’s been more than four years since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., yet the bone-chilling horror of what happened should never be forgotten. We can never know what those lives might have contributed to America in the future, and we can only imagine the agony of their families.

I was overcome with emotion when I walked into the main hall of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rancho Mirage and saw the chairs on the stage, each with a T-shirt draped over it, bearing the name and age of a victim. Only one shirt was an adult size honoring one of the teachers killed; the rest were small—almost all of them showing age 6.

The event, marking the four-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, was co-sponsored by Moms Demand Action Coachella Valley, the local group affiliated with the national group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Presenters included the Rev. Leisa Huyck of the Unitarian Universalist Church, attorney Frank Riela of Cathedral City, Lisa Middleton of Palm Springs, Joni Padduck of Indio, and Dori Smith of Palm Desert. It included a showing of the movie, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA.

Similar events are being held around the country, sponsored by the Not One More Project. Children’s tees are brightly colored with names and ages. Adults, such as the teachers and administrators killed at Sandy Hook, are represented by white tees. Shooters/suicides get a black shirt with no name—the group believes even those lives should be counted as the loss of yet other human beings to gun violence.

What’s perhaps even more disturbing than the killings is what has happened to the families of those killed. A Feb. 3 report by Barbara Demick in the Los Angeles Times documented the harassment families have received from conspiracy theorists and their followers, who call themselves “Sandy Hook truthers.” Perhaps the worst is the infamous Alex Jones, whose “Infowars” programs claim the Sandy Hook killings were staged, using child actors, as a means of overturning Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.

Noah Pozner’s father received death threats and was harassed with phone calls, including ethnic and racial slurs and profanities; he spent more than a year just trying to remove an online video that featured pictures of his son over a soundtrack of a porno film.

At a memorial in 2015 for Victoria Soto, one of the teachers slain, a man was arrested after demanding to know whether she had actually been killed, while shoving a picture at her younger sister.

The medical examiner who signed the coroner reports for Sandy Hook victims was bombarded with harassing phone calls to his home and office.

A man was convicted of stealing memorial signs put up in playgrounds that honored the dead children; he later called grieving parents and claimed their children had never even existed.

Most of the families connected with Sandy Hook have had to remove their social media accounts and unlist their telephone numbers. Many have moved to recover some sense of privacy and allow time to grieve.

Others connected to Sandy Hook have also been harassed: police, photographers, neighbors, government officials, witnesses and teachers who survived the horrific event.

According to Demick’s article, perhaps the worst conspiracy theorist is a 70-year-old Florida man who has spent his pension and more than $100,000 he raised online to “expose” the conspiracy which he claims includes 500-700 people, including President Obama. He believes President Trump’s election will bring a full investigation to expose what happened, since Trump has willingly accepted support from Alex Jones.

Meanwhile, Congress recently passed a bill that will allow guns to be purchased by people considered by the Social Security Administration as too mentally unstable to handle their own affairs. This would overturn a policy put in place by President Obama that allowed sharing background-check information to limit the ability of such individuals to purchase guns. ProPublica cites a study in Connecticut that found that adding more mental health records to the background-check system created a 53 percent drop in the likelihood of a person who had ever been involuntarily committed of later carrying out a violent gun-related crime. Meanwhile, the cost to American society of gun violence, including accidents and suicides, in public-health terms, is more than $5 billion each year.

Moms Demand Action works to prevent access to guns by children, calling for guns to be locked and kept separate from ammunition. They caution that children know where parents hide things and have an amazing ability to access even safes and codes. They also suggest never sending a child to someone else’s home without asking whether they have firearms, and how they are stored. Better safe than sorry.

According to Maggie Downs of Moms Demand Action Coachella Valley (paraphrasing Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times), “In the four decades between 1975 and 2015, terrorists born in the seven nations in Trump’s travel ban killed zero people in America. … In that same period guns claimed 1.34 million lives in America, including murders, suicides and accidents.”

The families of Sandy Hook and the local activists working to raise awareness want us to remember: Noah 6, Charlotte 6, Jack 6, Olivia 6, Dylan 6, Catherine 6, Avielle 6, Jessica 6, James 6, Josephine 7, Caroline 6, Benjamin 6, Chase 7, Ana 6, Jesse 6, Daniel 7, Grace 7, Emilie 6, Madeleine 6, Allison 6.

We should all say not one more.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors