Longtime Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association executive dies at 62.
It was a few days after the death of his wife, Beverly Smock, when East County's Bill Smock was going through hundreds of sympathetic Facebook messages.
Many of those messages carried the same theme.
"They would say, 'The first person I met at the builder's association was Beverly ... she made me feel loved,'" Bill Smock said. "That was a common thread."
The impact of Beverly Smock, who died Sept. 13 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital from COVID-19, was undeniable when it came to the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association.
Rebecca Queen, the events and communications director at the MSBIA the past four years, said Beverly Smock made her a better person.
"It’s not the easiest thing for single moms with little experience to have career opportunities, but like myself, Bev had been down that road, and she gave me a shot. It didn’t take long for us to develop a quick bond. She was a good resource when everything in my life was failing apart. She was one of the first phone calls or texts when I needed to vent and we always had a good laugh over the chaos that seems to follow me wherever I go."
Queen said after her twins were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Beverly Smock told her she would support her every step of her journey. She remained true to her word, rearranging Queen's schedule so she could work from home or go to doctor's appointments or her children's hospitalizations.
"Bev knew everything about me — the good, the bad and sometimes ugly," Queen said. "She has witnessed my weakest moments and been by my side in my most successful moments. She loved with her whole heart and never judged. She was also the keeper of my safety pins, Advil and other strange things, because if you know me, I always lose the most random things. Thank you Bev, for loving me like your own."
Bill Smock has heard similar stories countless times after 31 years of marriage.
"Everything she did, she did with love and kindness," Bill Smock said. "And it didn't matter what she did, she wanted to be the best at it. She cared, and she called herself a Type A-plus-plus-plus person."
Beverly Smock was working for a temp agency in 1994 when she landed a job as a receptionist at what was then the Home Builder's Association on Main Street in Bradenton. She moved up the ladder quickly, becoming what her husband calls "the right hand of the executive officer."
Eventually she received the title of deputy executive director. She used to tell her coworkers she was the only one in the office who could carry a gun because she was the deputy.
The Home Builder's Association became the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association and she went through 15 executive directors over her 27 years, often acting as interim executive director between them.
"She had a list in her drawer," Bill Smock said. "She used to threaten whoever was the executive director at the time, 'Don't make me write your name on this paper."
Jon Mast has been executive director the past seven years, and he heard that threat.
"Hopefully, she thought I was her best boss ever," Mast said. "Because she was my best employee ever."
Mast said no one ever was a stranger to Beverly Smock and that she made people feel "comfortable and important."
"She called herself a princess because Bill always treated her like a princess."
Bill Smock laughs when he tells the story of meeting his future wife in a Tampa bar when he was 20 years old. He was on a weekend training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and he decided to use a fake ID for the first time when he went out that night.
"She was across the room and we made eye contact," he said. "She told her friend, 'I have my dance partner for the night.'
"I call it fate as much as God's will. It was the only way we could be put into each other's path."
Less than a year later, they were married. She was 11 years older than her husband, but Bill Smock said "It just worked."
While on their honeymoon in the Bahamas, Bill Smock found out he would be deployed to Saudi Arabia and later Kuwait. He knew a FOX News correspondent who was assigned to his base, so he would work his way into video clips in the hopes that his wife would see him.
"If you had family, they were watching the news," he said.
After six months, he was home, and they went about their lives, moving to Bradenton in 1991. The owner of Gator Plumbing and Gator Construction, Bill Smock has been a board member of the MSBIA for more than 20 years.
"The association is our world," he said. "We talked about county commissioners, state representatives, our senators. We would go to fundraisers and we stay involved with everything. Our best friends were builders. Our vacations were conventions. The reality is that we lived and breathed the association."
After a builders convention in Orlando in July, both Bill and Beverly Smock tested positive for COVID.
"She had a fever for a couple of days, and then she was fine from days 3 through 9," he said "I lost 15 pounds and I was exhausted. I lost my sense of smell and my fever was up. But on the 10th day, she woke up and said, 'I can't breathe.'"
Beverly Smock went into the hospital Aug. 2 and by Aug. 4 was placed on a ventilator. For the next month and a half, Bill Smock could hardly see his wife due to COVID protocols. On Sept. 13, she died.
"God gives us a certain amount of days," he said. When those are done, you are done.
"But there are a lot of things we didn't get to do."
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