CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - “There is nothing political about death. Nothing!”
Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman is speaking out to FOX19 NOW Friday morning, one day after thousands of secret text messages exchanged among City Council’s self-proclaimed “Gang of Five" were released.
One of the text exchanges, between Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, accuse him of using his wife’s illness for political gain.
Pamela Smitherman, 48, lost her battle with breast cancer not even two months ago. She passed away at their North Avondale home Jan. 15.
It was a Tuesday.
She didn’t want to go, he remembers. But God had other plans for her, so her spirit went to Him after devoting her life to her husband, their children, their five beautiful children.
They miss her every single day. Every hour, every minute, he said.
“As a family we do not wish this crisis on our worst enemy,” Christopher Smitherman said.
For them, her illness has clearly been no laughing matter. Nothing to snark about, he said. It was real.
In her final months, Pamela Smitherman was so sick she couldn’t get out of bed or eat, FOX19 NOW observed.
Hospice came to their North Avondale home to help out.
He was at her bedside every moment when he wasn’t at work or City Hall or out driving the kids to school or activities.
Longtime family friends dropped by to visit as summer turned into fall and then the air turned cold.
Those times, in the couple’s bedroom with their wedding portrait hanging on the wall, were all about love, warmth. Family. They were bittersweet days, but ones full of more laughs than tears.
The couple celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary just before the New Year, on Dec. 29.
Pamela Smitherman was too weak to get out of bed for a small ceremony downstairs to renew their vows, he remembers.
That didn't stop them.
He got into their bed alongside her.
They held hands as they promised to be true to each other.
Through good times and in bad.
In sickness and in health.
I will love you and honor your all the days of my life.
A year earlier, Sittenfeld and Seelbach mentioned his wife in their text exchange.
They texted back and forth about his radio show appearance earlier in the day.
'I guess you heard Smitherman was going after you super hard today on 700," Seelbach texted Sittenfeld.
Later in the texting discussion, Sittenfeld tapped: “He’s so unhinged. I did hear it. Do you think it’s worth my doing anything?”
Seelbach: “Do nothing. He wants to get under your skin.”
Sittenfeld responded: “It seems so desperate, and like he feels so threatened.”
“And the fact that he’s using his wife, saying ‘While I’m home caring for my dying wife...' is disgusting," Seelbach texted.
Sittenfeld: “It really is grotesque. Using that for a political agenda is actually staggering.”
Seelbach: “As I’ve said for 6 years, both (Mayor John) Cranley and Smitherman seem to have serious mental illnesses."
While these texts and others blew up the headlines Thursday, the grieving widower received a text of his own.
It was from Spring Grove Cemetery.
His wife’s grave markers were in.
He found comfort and love at her side once more.
“There was irony in it,” Smitherman said. “I was up there talking to Pam. I said ‘you see all this craziness?’”
It got him through what otherwise would have been an unimaginably agonizing afternoon.
“It really did get me through the day,” he said. “There is no question about it. It was God’s hand in it. It was a blessing.”
The vice mayor released a statement Friday. Here it is in its entirety:
My wife died on Jan 15, 2019 at 1:03PM. She fought breast cancer & an autoimmune disease that attacked her brain for 2 years having completely lost her ability to walk at age 46. She left behind 5 beautiful children and a husband of 28 years. I am 51. Over half my life with the same person. Pamela would often say “I did not choose cancer it chose me”. Pamela would want to be describe as a “strong African American woman who loved being a Mother”. She enjoyed her 21 years of teaching at Cincinnati Public Schools.
There are cancer patients all over this region fighting for life with caregivers who love them dearly. No person can ever understand the magnitude of a loss of this kind unless you have walked in these shoes. I am so proud of Pamela and her courage and her love for GOD & family. It inspires me daily. I am so proud of our five children because they have handled themselves so well with such dignity in the public. I continue to see their Mother’s strength in them during the funeral up to today.
As a family we do not wish this crisis on our worst enemy. There is nothing political about death. Nothing!
My children and I continue to mourn and doing our best adjusting to the new normal. Thank all in our community who continue to pray for us and love on us with same dignity you would expect.
Anyone who would like to honor Pamela M. T. Smitherman can make contributions to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation or the Karen Wellington Foundation or Hospice of Cincinnati. All of these organization continue to protect and provide dignity for many families in our community.