Walter Joseph Smith

Trial Attorney
Walter Joseph Smith

    Walter Joseph Smith Jr., a longtime summer resident of Amagansett who was a trial lawyer and partner of a Manhattan firm for some 25 years, died at home in Gainesville, Va., on June 5. He was 77 and had been diagnosed with a brain tumor three and a half months ago. 
    Mr. Smith was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. A former U.S. prosecutor for the Washington, D.C., Superior Court, in recent years he served as a mediator there. He was a grandson of Alfred E. Smith, the former New York State governor and presidential nominee, and enjoyed supplying historians with personal memories of his grandfather. He also collected political memorabilia.
    He was born on Feb. 23, 1936, in Manhattan to Walter Joseph Smith Sr. and the former Florence Watson. He grew up in Westhampton Beach and graduated from Westhampton Beach High School, where he played football and basketball. He went on to graduate from Hamilton College and the Columbia University Law School.
    Mr. Smith served in the Navy, out of Newport, R.I., from 1962 to 1967. Following military service, on Oct. 5, 1968, he and Felicitas Von Zeschau were married in Germany. The couple lived in McLean, Va., before relocating to Gainesville, and the family spent holidays as well as summers in Amagansett. In his later years, Mr. Smith loved retreating to the family’s beach house there.
 In addition to his wife of 44 years, Mr. Smith is survived by two children, Caroline Smith Pickering of Suwanee, Ga., and Alexandra Smith, most recently of East Hampton. A son, Christopher Smith, died before him. He is also survived by three grandchildren and four of his five siblings, who are Catherine O’Hara of New Jersey, Bunny Smith of Santa Monica, Calif., Alfred Smith of Napa Valley, Calif., and Diane Costello of Hingham, Mass.
    On June 14, a service was held at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, with the Rev. Thomas Yehl presiding. Burial followed at the Ivy Hill Cemetery in Upperville, Va.
    Mr. Smith’s family has suggested memorial donations to the American Brain Tumor Association, 8550 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 550, Chicago 60631.
Rita Layton
    Rita Layton was full of “beauty, charm, elegance, and grace,” wrote her daughter, Barbara Layton of East Hampton, but she also “had a strength and courage beyond words.”
    Ms. Layton died at her daughter’s house on June 8 from a rare form of skin cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma. She was 87.
    Born on March 27, 1926, in Washington Heights to James Corcoran and the former Margaret DeWitt, Irish immigrants, she was one of 10 children. She was raised in Washington Heights and graduated from high school in Manhattan.
    On April 15, 1950, she married Frank Layton and they moved to Brooklyn the next year. Ms. Layton was an import-export manager for a number of companies based in Manhattan and worked hard throughout her career, her daughter said. “She walked to the train station through the housing projects every single day and got home very late,” she recalled. Lesser women might have balked at the dangers, but not her mother. At the time it was not as common for women to work outside the home, but “she was always ahead of her time,” the younger Ms. Layton said. “She was a very progressive thinker.”
    Ms. Layton loved to read, especially historical fiction about Ireland. She enjoyed dancing, long walks, and the movies, and loved the water and being with her family. She was also a great cook. “Even though she was Irish, she made the best Italian food imaginable,” her daughter said.