Cover photo for Brenda Lee Smith (Kerr)'s Obituary
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1940 Brenda 2023

Brenda Lee Smith (Kerr)

April 20, 1940 — July 10, 2023


On July 10, 2023, Brenda Lee Smith (Kerr), 83, of Syracuse, passed away peacefully at her home of nearly 60 years with the comfort of family by her side. Brenda’s passing, while unexpected in the moment, was truly a blessing and the end of an era. Hers was a life well-lived.

Brenda’s first love and calling was as a mother and she raised three children, the oldest, Edward J. “Ted” (Rosemary) Smith III, of Syracuse, the middle (with a special place in her heart based in part to her own similarity in the familial pecking order,) Thomas D. (Meggin) Smith of Middletown, RI, and her best-ever daughter, Alicia Essery of Portsmouth, RI.  

Brenda’s second love and passion in life was being a teacher. Having worked 29 years, primarily as a first-grade schoolteacher at Split Rock Elementary School, Mrs. Smith, as she was known to generations of families on the west side, was the teacher everyone always wanted to have! Teaching children the wonders of reading and writing at an early age were some of the happiest days of her life.

Brenda was also a trailblazer without ever knowing it. At a time in the 1960s and 70s, when so few women worked full-time, she did, and expanded her skills to become a woman entrepreneur in the early 80s. While continuing to work full-time, she ventured out on her own and started a small business. Equipped with nothing other than a sun worshipper’s love and a sense of naïve fearlessness, Brenda started and operated the Sun 7 tanning salon where she greeted visitors with her infectious smile and quick wit for over 20 years. This was her way of bringing warmth to Syracuse, even through the coldest of winters. During her time at Sun 7, she enjoyed numerous buying sprees, attending conventions across the country with her coworkers and friends, creating wonderful, lasting memories for all. 

In her final years, Brenda found joy and laughter and brought smiles to those around her who simply enjoyed being with her. Her family is immensely grateful to the entire “TEAM BRENDA,” including her Guardian Angel, Melinda Coats, Vicky, Courtney, Lindsey, Mira, Maria, Lauren, Cadence and Hannah. You kept Mom safe and healthy at home, which was her wish and we are eternally grateful for your love, compassion and support.

Brenda is predeceased by her parents, John and Katherine Kerr; and sister, Sandra Kerr (Hudson), formerly of Sandy, UT. In addition to her three children, Ted, Tom and Alicia, Brenda is survived by her brother, John A. “Duke” (Jane) Kerr of New Bedford, NH; former husband, Edward J. Smith, Jr. of Syracuse; numerous nieces and nephews; and six grandchildren, Paul Smyth, Maggie Smith, Katie and Cooper Smith, and Sam and Nick Essery, whom she loved most of all.  

Relatives and friends may call Friday, July 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Buranich Funeral Home, 5431 W. Genesee St., Camillus.

A Catholic Mass will be celebrated Saturday, July 15 at 9:00 a.m. in Holy Family Church, 127 Chapel Dr., Syracuse.

Brenda will be laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery, DeWitt.

Brenda will be greatly missed by all who knew her. We are comforted in knowing that her generous spirit is alive in all who follow.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Brenda Lee Smith (Kerr), please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, July 14, 2023

4:00 - 6:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Saturday, July 15, 2023

Starts at 9:00 am (Eastern time)

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Saturday, July 15, 2023

St. Mary's Cemetery (Dewitt)

4100 E. Genesee St., SYRACUSE, NY 13214

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