It was an unusual moment: Anti-cigarette advocates gathered to eulogize an heir to the giant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
That was the scene Thursday in Santa Monica as no-smoking crusader Patrick Reynolds conducted a memorial service for his half-brother, R.J. Reynolds III.
R.J. Reynolds, a 60-year-old grandson and namesake of the cigarette company founder, died June 28 of smoking-related emphysema.
"We agreed to disagree about tobacco issues," said Patrick Reynolds, 45, of Beverly Hills. "He didn't put me down for what I was doing, and I didn't put him down for smoking."
Patrick Reynolds shocked his family by divesting himself of tobacco stock, quitting smoking and then testifying eight years ago on Capitol Hill in favor of a ban on cigarette advertising. Since then he has spent more than half of his $2.5-million inheritance on the anti-smoking cause.
Nonetheless, Reynolds said he annually spent Christmas and a week each summer in North Carolina with R.J. Reynolds. "I didn't nag my brother about his smoking," he said. "Family members shouldn't do that."
R.J. Reynolds, who was 60 when he died at his estate in Pinehurst, N.C., will be remembered as a poet, horse breeder and philanthropist, Patrick Reynolds told about two dozen who attended the service.
But he admitted that R.J. Reynolds was also "an intensely shy, quiet man who avoided the limelight" and "wouldn't have wanted people to know he was sick from smoking."
The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has had no comment on the death, except to note that no Reynolds family member has been connected with the company for several decades.
Private services were held July 5 in North Carolina. But there was no announcement of the death until this week, when Patrick Reynolds disclosed that it had been caused by a smoking-related illness.
R.J. Reynolds had been a heavy smoker of R.J. Reynolds Co. Winston cigarettes until about 1988, Patrick Reynolds said. Thursday's service was staged, he said, because "I feel closer to some of the people here in Los Angeles than to the ones back in North Carolina."
"My family doesn't like it very much, but I feel it's the thing to do," he added. "The story of R.J. Reynolds dying of smoking will have real impact. I believe he's up in heaven now, urging me on and applauding me."
Other opponents of smoking agreed that it might seem odd for them to memorialize an heir to a tobacco company that they claim has contributed to the deaths of thousands of smokers.
"But this man was a victim, too," said Robert Cherno, a member of an anti-cigarette group called Doctors Ought to Care.
Patrick Reynolds, who displayed family snapshots of his half-brother, said the death will make him step up his work with his group, Citizens for a Smokefree America.
"The issue is getting real personal now," he said.