Dr Barry Smith was a gentleman, a scholar, a gifted classical and jazz guitarist and a lover of life.

The husband of Mary for more than 50 years and father of three died yesterday following a short illness. Dr Barry Norman Poata Smith was 72.

Smith's contribution to education, music, performing arts and health research ethics in Rotorua spans nearly 40 years and saw him awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to the community in 2008.

Descended from Te Rarawa and Ngāti Kahu, Smith had a PhD in sociology, other university qualifications in mathematics and music and a background in university teaching and social research.

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He travelled the world giving lectures in his field and was highly regarded as a scholar, particularly in the area of health research ethics.

But it was the extraordinary sounds he could make from a guitar in classical and jazz genres that was another string to his bow - a gift he had no hesitation in passing on to the many students he taught.

Smith was born in Kaitaia and came to Rotorua in 1979 to work for the then Forest Research Institute doing social research into implications of forestry. He left the organisation in 1999.

He was the chairman of the Rotorua Civic Arts Trust, consultant in social research and health research ethics, acting chairman of the Wellington-based Health and Disability Multi-Region Ethics Committee and chairman of the Lakes District Health Board Research and Ethics Committee.

He was the co-founder of the Rotorua Music School, member of the Whakarewarewa and Glenholme school committees, chairman of the Rotorua Girls' High School Board of Trustees, president of the Rotorua Performing Arts and Competitions Society and Bay of Plenty Health Research Regional Ethics Committee chairman.

Mary Smith said her husband was a "tower of strength" for the family.

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"He was an incredibly grounded person and we all had huge respect for him."

Former Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall said he was a man of integrity and always had the Rotorua community at heart.

"I had the utmost regard for him. He had outstanding skills, expertise and knowledge and made such an enormous contribution to Rotorua. He has always been prepared to share his considerable talents whenever he was available."

Friend and fellow musician Richard Anaru said Smith never had a bad word to say about anyone.

"He was a consummate lover of life. It is heart breaking. We grew to be really good friends over the years and he will be sorely missed."

Dr Barry Smith qualifications and appointments

Bachelor of Science
Master of Philosophy
Phd from University of Auckland
Graduate Diploma in Music
Diploma of Education
Diploma of Teaching
Member of the Ministry of Health and Disability multi-region ethics committee
Rotorua Civic Arts Trust chairman
Lakes District Health Board research and ethics committee chairman
Te Wananga o Aotearoa ethics committee member
Rotorua Girls' High School Board of Trustees member and former chairman
Glenholme School Committee member
Former teacher, musician and researcher at Te Wananga o Aotearoa
Former lecturer at University of Waikato
Former Lockwood Aria adjudicator
Co-founder of Rotorua Music School in 1987