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    Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE Leadership. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

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A Tribute to Denny Smith

Posted by Orrin Woodward on June 27, 2016

Today, Laurie and I headed up to Pennsylvania to see some of our best friends and to celebrate Denny Smith’s life. I first met Denny speaking at a conference back in 2006, his hunger to learn was evident from our first conversation, a conversation that would turn into a lifelong friendship. 

Rhino Leaders

Denny, Greg, Orrin, & Tony

Denny soon became a trusted confidante, one who could be relied upon to do the right thing because it was the right thing. He modeled the character, tasks, and relationships necessary for great leadership, leadership strengthened by mentoring with Greg Johnson. In many ways, the relationship these two formed reminded me of the partnership I have enjoyed with Chris Brady, built upon respect, trust, and loyalty.

Greg and Denny joined forces when neither one of them had a nickel to their name. Nonetheless, through the power of dreams, work-ethic, and persistence, these two forged an amazing lifestyle for their families. Denny, the muscular Marine, and Greg, the intellectual Ivy Leaguer, may have started in different fields, but they quickly united around the principles of the American Dream, a dream focused on life, liberty, and the pursuit of their goals and dreams.

These two men accomplished so much and their example has inspired thousands of others to do similarly. Needless to say, I am one of those countless others and one of my greatest joys was spending time with these two men, hearing their crazy stories of how they persisted, despite the pain of the process, to achieve their dreams. Between globetrotting around the world, living in beautiful mansions, and enjoying the time/money to spend with friends and family, these two experienced life like few others. 

Dreams, however, this side of heaven, do not last forever. For every person, whether rich or poor, is appointed to die. Death, in a word, is the great equalizer. Perhaps, no single event turns a person’s perspective from this life to the next faster than the loss of a loved one. Denny’s cancer and death caught all of us by surprise. To say we are going to miss him is a huge understatement. Thankfully, Denny was a Christian who knew his Lord and Savior and even though he enjoyed this life, he also prepared for the next one. I will miss Denny greatly, but I rest in the fact that I will meet him again. This is why I am going up to Pennsylvania, not to mourn, but rather to celebrate Denny’s life.

Denny seemed the picture of health, not only was he the poster-child of positivity, but he also regularly exercised and lived a moral life. Last year, however, he simply could not shake off a bad cough. I remember the day Denny and Donna picked me up in Philadelphia because we had scheduled a morning tour through Independence Hall. Denny and I both loved liberty and history so we did what we always did when we hung out – we laughed and learned. In reality, this was true anytime Laurie and I spent time with Denny and Donna, for both of these two loved to learn and laugh. This is what made them so special to so many.

Denny and Donna Smith

Denny and Donna Smith

Still, something was amiss, I couldn’t help but notice that Denny’s laugh ended in coughing fits. Finally, after practically prying it out of him – Denny never like to talk negatively about anything, especially himself – he admitted he was having difficulty shaking this “cold”. Donna said she had been on him to go to the doctor for over a month, but Denny, the tough Marine, believed he would beat it on his own. I took Donna’s side and asked Denny to get this checked out immediately. Denny agreed and we resumed enjoying the rest of the day.

Several weeks later, I received a call from Denny. He said the doctor had run test confirmed his cough was from an aggressive form of lung cancer and the odds did not look good. Denny’s attitude through all of this was amazing. He spent most of the phone call encouraging me! This is the type of man Denny was. He received bad news and yet he called to encourage me? Who does this? I asked Denny how he was doing and he said he was going to fight with everything he had. I told him if anyone could beat this, it would be Denny Smith, the tough as nails Marine. We prayed together and asked God to intervene for His Glory, no matter what the outcome. Denny then began the fight for his life, knowing, through his faith in Jesus Christ, he would win either way.

I have many great people in our leadership community, but what Denny accomplished the last 6 months of his life is amazing. Despite investing time to catch up with friends and family, undergoing exhausting chemo-therapy session, and endless hours researching lung cancer, Denny grew his community. Incredibly, while fighting for his life, he went CAB Coordinator, qualified for Operation Advance, and the prestigious Fun-in-the-Sun trip. In fact, the day before he passed away, he was in our hotel suite with 25 other guys. I asked Greg Johnson to give Denny a proper introduction because many of the younger leaders did not know his story. Greg’s introduction made many of them tear up as they realized what Denny had overcome to be there. Not surprisingly, Denny, although short of breath, proceeded to build the dream like few people can. He encouraged everyone to dream bigger and chase down the dream within the time each of us is allotted. 

In my mind, this moment perfectly encapsulated Denny Smith, the quintessential dreamer and doer, who refused to give up. He didn’t wait for life to happen but rather went out and made it happen. One may wonder why a man, so close to death, would share about the power of the dream, but I knew what Denny was doing and I couldn’t help but notice the juxtaposition.  While most people breathe without difficulty, they struggle to dream; Denny, in contrast, struggled to breathe, but dreamed without difficulty. Denny never stopped dreaming. This is his enduring legacy – Denny dreamed while others slept, worked while others recreated, and accomplished while others excused.

Later that day, he was admitted to the Cape Coral hospital and the following day Denny went home to be with the Lord. I know I speak for the tens of thousands of people Denny touched when I say – thank you, Denny, for teaching us how press toward the mark and leave it all on the field even to the last second. And I do mean the last second, for as the doctors hooked Denny’s body up to a breathing ventilator, his lungs shutting down from his lost war against cancer, Denny looked at his friends and family one more time and gave them a thumbs up. What a man and leader. Only a person who was sure of his destiny would, even at this crucial juncture, still maintain his love for others over himself.

This is why I love Denny Smith and this is why Laurie and I are traveling up to Pennsylvania to celebrate his life. If you knew or heard Denny Smith share the dream, I would love to hear how he touched your heart.

Sincerely,

Orrin Woodward

37 Responses to “A Tribute to Denny Smith”

  1. Debbie McMichael said

    Denny and Donna touched a lot of people. Denny is missed by all who met him. Donna has shown nothing but strength and I continue to pray for her.

  2. Kelly Wells said

    We never had the privilege to meet Denny but from reading this incredible tribute to his life, I’m sure he was an amazing person to know and his actions were fruit on the tree all the way until the end of his life. What an amazing person to embody.

  3. Libby Burckhalter said

    Orrin, that was a beautiful tribute and you captured Denny perfectly. I met Denny 20 years ago through a mutual friend, Donny McFall. Both of these gentlemen have changed my life. Denny was always the encourager! The last zoom call we had he was reminding us that time is short! I learned of Denny’s passing while on a mission trip in Mexico. Although my heart was absolutely broken I knew I had a mission there to complete. He respected you so much! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Orrin,

    Thanks for remembering my friend in such an honorable manner. He was a friend and leader to many.

    We shared many fun times and memories over a friendship of 31 years.

    We need more men like Denny Smith. He was a role model and mentor to many and he left this world a better place.

    My life is better for knowing such an amazing example of loyalty and friendship.

    Denny – Till we meet again my brother.

    Greg

    • Steve Morgan said

      Greg,
      So sorry for your loss. I know you had a very special friendship with Denny. I hope that those memories stay with you when the pain of missing him is in your heart.
      Thinking of you in this time,
      Steve Morgan

  5. Tammy said

    They are celebrating Denny’s return in heaven and I’m glad to know his loved ones are doing the same here on earth! Thanks for sharing his beautiful legacy.

  6. Rykel Lim said

    Although I have not known Denny personally, what you have said about the gentleman is truly heartwarming and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Dean Frey said

    I have had the blessing of knowing Denny for over two decades. I have watched him celebrate victories and keep an amazing attitude through the valleys. In leadership discussions he was willing to ask the tough questions and was constantly searching for what was the right thing to do for the team. His constant upbeat, overcoming attitude has been a source of strength for me and many others. Denny was a big encourager to me and in some tough times he made it a point to let me know he was proud of me and said more than once “you make Pennsylvania proud”. I miss him and there will always be a special place in my memories for him. Thanks Denny for a life well lived!
    See you in heaven!

    Dean

  8. Bryan Boland said

    My father, an aerospace engineer came home one evening when I was about ten years old; This was 20 years ago, I remember only bits and pieces but the pieces I do remember are clear as day. He spoke with an excitement I rarely saw, he spoke of freedom, family and Disney world. He had begun a journey that would bring Denny into my life. I heard Denny in tapes years before I ever met him as we lived in Colorado and my parents would go all the way out to Pennsylvania for “a business conference.” Eventually as fate would have it we moved to Maryland, my parents struggling to hold onto a dream went to mentor with Denny. I was around 14 years old and not getting along with my sibling so I was brought along but left in the vehicle to occupy myself as my parents spent time with their mentor. Suddenly a man appears, takes me into his house and sets me up in his basement to play pool and watch the game that was on. That man, Denny Smith, my hero, my mentor, my Rich Dad. From that day he never forgot about me, the team became my family, he became a second father he never gave up on me, he never let me believe that I was anything but worthy if only I was willing to commit. He was the most focused, solid, amazing man I have ever had the honor to know and to be raised by. The man I am today is in no slight part to do with the example he lived and the hand up he was always there to offer if only you were willing to do your part. He always said a pity party is the most expensive party you can throw yourself he always knew how to frame truth as not to hurt but motivate. The world lost one of the greatest warriors for truth and freedom but, what he left behind is truly immeasurable.
    May the legacy he left raise 1000 men of equal candor, desire, love and passion.

  9. Susan Strickler said

    Thank you for sharing Orrin. I will always remember Denny’s smile that would light up a room. He made you feel great about yourself-encouraging and uplifting with his powerful positive words. The Life Leadership Pennsylvania team took a huge hit the day he lost his battle with cancer, but heaven gained a shining star! Thanks for being an example Denny, you will be missed. And for right now, we say, ” until we meet again” while you have heard the words, “well done , my good and faithful servant”! Sending love from the Strickler family today as Denny receives a proper military burial for service and love of this great country. Again, thank you for giving of yourself, Denny Smith. May God bless the Rhino’s organization today as you celebrate Denny’s life. Much love to you and your family today, Donna, we will be thinking of you all!

  10. Steve Duba said

    Thanks Orrin. I remember the first time I met Denny. It was an open meeting in Orlando, right after we had moved to Florida. I also remember introducing him to many people three years later at another open meeting. The last time was just after he spent time with his dad on Harleys at Daytona this year. He did an open near Orlando the Tuesday before he went to the Lord. I have his picture on my phone from that meeting and think of him often. My dad was a Marine and fought in Korea. He has now become part of the Marine team with my dad and the Lord. I also have loved the Simple Man song and told my son (now in his 20s) to live by that song years ago. Thank you Orrin.

  11. Gisele said

    Orrin, I’ve never met Denny, I have listened to a few of his cd’s. Your testimony here gives me hope that I’m not alone and more over it is possible to LIVE till the end. This is how I want to live. Thank you for sharing your friendship and this part of his story! Amen

  12. Lloyd weiler said

    What a life well lived! We had the privilege to grow to know Denny in the life community and were used to seeing him stage host at the pa seminars! He was always sharp always professional and a great communicator! It seemed like nothing shook him and when I heard one of his last CDs the story Donna told of him flying the plane through the storm , I could help but to smile and silently agree! Leaving a legacy as he did could not have been all roses and even in his passing he set the bar a notch higher for us all!
    I will never forget at the last seminar that he hosted our team had achieved a personal goal and the reward was to have me be marched on stage with a pink wand and princess crown on! Now I’m a guy so it was uncomfortable but Denny put me at ease by stopping me half way through name and team name and asking so politely to take a pictures!! It was hilarious and we still remembers Denny as a healthy and bright spot in the room dispite his health challenge! I wish a blessing on the Smith family and as God continues to tarry let us all strive to leave a legacy worthy of such admiration! ~ Lloyd Weiler

  13. Carol Miller said

    Orrin,
    Thank you for this awesome article about the life of Denny Smith. I didn’t know Denny personally but there was something about him I could tell he had a kind and gentle heart. He was always smiling. At that last Fun in the Sun trip we were sitting close to them and my husband Chris reached out and shook his hand and when he turned to look at us his eyes were shining so bright. I was struck by how bright his eyes were. And of course he was smiling.
    Carol

  14. Michael Parr said

    Orrin…… Thank you for painting a beautiful portrait of a life well lived.

    Every time I have talked to Donna since Denny has gone home; there is one thing that strikes me. Great loss….. Great love….. And a great respect. That was evident in the words that you put before us.
    Denny truly was an amazing brother. He was always there for us. He was a rock for so many. His quiet strength was always calming and reassuring, and his laugh was contagious. There have been many, many times over the past several months that I’ve picked up my phone to call him. Denny was always the guy that you asked” what do you think about this brother?”.
    A little later today we will cry together, we will laugh together, but most of all we will celebrate that Denny is not dead, but more alive than he has ever been before!
    More alive than we could ever imagine!

    My brother….. You are loved, and you are greatly missed
    Mike and Lynnette

  15. Elizabeth Sieracki said

    Orrin,
    Thank you for this wonderful tribute. Keith and I spent time with Denny and Donna a couple times when they would come do our open meetings in Sarasota/Bradenton. We didn’t know them well, but the posture, the stories, the positive attitude….you just wanted to spend time with them and glean from them. Denny and Donna are the type of people that make you feel better after you have spent time with them. Our love and prayers to you and Laurie and Donna and the rest of the Pennsylvania teammates during this celebration.
    Keith and Elizabeth

  16. Kenyon said

    Wow what a perfect tribute to an inspiring man.

  17. Wow. I am in awe. It’s great to hear of a man that lived to the end. How many do we see waiting around to die?
    Denny, thank you for your example.
    Orrin, thanks for your inspiring words.

  18. George said

    Orrin, thank you for this tribute. It should affirm the class of the leadership of LIFE Leadership. I loved and respected Denny too although he was on a different team. To me he demonstrated a Godly man and leader. Our prayers continue for his family. God Bless, George

  19. You never know when your mission on earth is over and Denny lived his life to the fullest by sharing his vision and encouragement with everyone he met. I met Denny at my first Chart Topper in Florida and we talked biker/military stuff and how Greg Johnson is one of our favorite speakers, since he was coming to Arizona so much, he truly is a master teacher. I never did a ride with Denny but his love of people and freedom were contagious. Choose the right, serve each other, ride motorcycles forever. R.I.P. Brother. cap

  20. Steve Morgan said

    Denny was such a cool and smooth guy. I always liked his caring attitude and gentle spirit. I still think about his airplane story, I laugh every time I think about it. Denny always seemed like he had a plan and nothing seemed to shake him. He will be missed by all of us and we have confidence that his eternity is taken care of. Sadly we are still here and Denny is in heaven already. Someday I look forward to seeing him in heaven and giving him a hug and telling him thanks for the confidence he gave me showing me how to fight through a very tough time in life. Goodbye for now Denny, see you in heaven.

  21. Amy Antonucci said

    Thank you Orrin! I have never been a great builder in this business, but I couldn’t tell by the way Denny always encouraged me. I think you summed him up well. (At least in the most he can be summed up!)

  22. Elaine Mallios said

    Denny made a huge impact on our lives and marriage! He was a strong man but had a huge timidity and grace. He once told me to read “The Excellent Wife” and of course I thought NOT! A couple of years later, I did read that book and it changed me forever. Thanks to him our marriage was renewed and stronger. Thanks Denny – we love you!

  23. Leslie Gebhart said

    Dear Orrin,
    What a wonderful depiction of who Denny Smith was. His heart was so open and genuine, the relationships he had were so real and enduring. We met Denny almost 10 years ago but were blessed to really get to know him closely over the last couple of years. Visiting he and Donna in their beautiful second home the same weekend he was diagnosed was bittersweet, and just as you described: Denny going out of his way to make sure we were looked after and pampered! One of my fondest memories will always be an elegant dinner at Greg and Lin Johnson’s home with the Parrs and Hoffmans where we all toasted to a future trip celebrating our team’s success. We will carry on that legacy so we can wink skyward when it is achieved. I must also comment on the strength and poise that Donna has demonstrated throughout Denny’s illness and passing. His friends, family and team demonstrate admirable character, Life Leadership’s trademark.
    Leslie

  24. Ken Hendon said

    Thank you all for the recognition of Denny’s life. He was a man worthy of emulating. He was a hero to his country, his friends and family, and to all of us blessed to know him.

  25. Diane Hauptly said

    I’m ashamed to say I never got to know Denny. What a mistake. I am part of his large family and I know he is with the Lord because of his faith. He was such a wonderful person because of his mother, Clair and his dad, Denny. Our prayers go out to those mourning.

  26. John Hatchell said

    What an amazing Man and your kind wonderful words honoring him . I say to anyone who wants to be a part of us at Life Leadership needs to but experience the friendship and fellowship we share, and you will see the true Leadership that Christ talks about amongst friends…

  27. Lori Wells said

    I did not know Denny, but the words of respect coming from someone I respect so much speaks in volume.

  28. Ashley Beaubien said

    Awesome tribute Orrin. That’s why I love this organization, Denny’s legacy will live on in such a big way here because of who he was and what we do. I never had the privilege Of knowing Denny personally but he helped encourage our teammates and for that I am greatful. I love reading through these comments and noticing how impactful he was and that his family will be forever protected and cared for by this leadership community. My heart is with Donna and both their direct and life leadership family.

  29. nancy lear said

    John and I met Denny many years ago in the UK.. He was an inspiration to us and to our people, an amazing man who built the dream to so many many people.. Our prayers are with Donna

  30. Lin Johnson said

    Orrin you did an amazing job of capturing Denny’s life and the legacy he leaves behind. Greg and I had the privilege of being best friends with him for 30 years and watching him grow from a shy young man into a great leader and most loyal friend. He had a quiet but strong will to always stay stedfast in doing the right things even when adversity set in. He also had a great sense of adventure and playing pranks! His work ethic was evident in everything he did and was a great example for others to follow. I thank God for the many years Greg and I got to travel together with Denny to Poland, England and several other countries together. One of the best being the time we went on an African Safari with our kids and several others.
    He surely taught us all how to live right to the end. He never let on any of the pain he was in or his struggle to breath. He was one courageous man for sure.
    I watch as DONNA goes through the toughest thing in her life with courage and poise and am so proud to be her friend and help her through it.
    We sure love you Denny and were blessed to have you in our lives. We will look forward to meeting you again in heaven.
    Thank you Orrin and Laurie for honoring Denny’s wish to come up here and do his service. You both are what true friends are and we are proud to be under your leadership.
    God bless!

  31. Jerry & Polly Harteis said

    First of all, Orrin, we have to say that your words, summarizing Denny’s life, are so beautiful ~ such an amazing tribute to a great man, friend, & example to so many! Knowing Denny, he would be totally humbled to hear how you, such a hero of his, so eloquently depicted in words, his soul, his purpose, & his courage! We have watched Denny through the years grow in grace, empowerment, commitment to the truth, & an unquenchable hunger for living his life to the fullest! Denny certainly had that mischievous twinkle in his eye that always let you know that he was definitely up to something good ~ even on that trip to Africa, Lin!
    What touched our hearts the most, though, was his strength & courage in fighting the hardest battle in his life. He was the perfect picture of the Lord strengthening the weak, & allowing Christ’s light to shine through him! I’m sure the seeds that were sown in the process will bring in a huge harvest for His Kingdom! I pray that we can, as humbly & courageously as Denny, accept God’s will in our lives as did he! Donna was the perfect wife for Denny, & we know she will carry on his legacy!
    We were honored to be at his Memorial service on an earlier date, & even though we could’t attend the service yesterday, our hearts will forever be thankful to have had the privilege to have known such a great man! We love you Denny!

  32. Russell Ryan said

    I had the great pleasure of meeting Denny and Donna Smith when they came to speak at a seminar in Halifax, Nova Scotia in November 2010. I was in business for only a couple of months at that time, but Denny and Donna Smith shared a lot of great information with us and were very humble in sharing their story of going through the struggles to build their business and help others achieve their dreams. After the seminar, I was able to talk to Denny for a few minutes and, by chance, I even got to see them off the next day as they were leaving for the airport. Denny showed me pictures of their property and the plane he flew, it was so kind of him to do that. Denny Smith will never be forgotten and his legacy will live on in the lives of those he and his wife Donna touched. God Bless!

  33. Lou Minnis said

    In April 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting Denny and Donna Smith. They came to Orlando to meet me for a mutual friend Katie Mogal.
    We hit it off. There isn’t must to say without remembering Denny’s laugh. He was a great and loved friend mentor and Brother in Christ. He came here several times not just to help in the business but to be a mentor and friend.
    Thank you Denny for giving to the LORD, I am a life (pun intended) that will be forever changed. I am living your legacy right now in my life.
    Orrin for all of the hope you gave to my friend and so many others, Thank you too.

    Denny, see you in the morning.

    Lou

  34. JONJON RAFAEL said

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful highlights of Denny”s Life. He’s a man of character. He will surely be missed.

  35. Isaac & Sarah Ann Lapp said

    Denny was a strong man,He was always reminding us to dream bigger.
    we had the unique honour of getting to know Denny as a home town hero,
    his last semaniar in Pa. He remined us all we only have one shot in life.
    so go out and make it happen get your goals and dreams.

  36. Amanda Matha said

    This is such a beautiful, loving and caring tribute to a beautiful, loving and caring man. Really really enjoyed listening to his CD’s and always enjoyed when he came to Florida to lead an open. Denny, you will always live in the legacy of your words and deeds.

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