Cover photo for Justin Zachary Smith's Obituary
Justin Zachary Smith Profile Photo

Justin Zachary Smith

Justin Zachary Smith, of Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia, passed away on October 26, 2023 at Inova Fairfax Medical Center from complications stemming from a June 17, 2023 cardiac arrest. Justin was a mathematical statistician for the U.S. Census Bureau. He is survived by his adored wife, Yarissa González Pagán; his 10-year-old son, Mateo Smith Gonzalez; his father, Michael Smith; his brother, Mahlon Smith and sister-in-law Nadine; his aunt, Celia Walker; and numerous nieces and cousins.

Justin was born March 29, 1979, in Eugene, Oregon. He was the youngest son of Michael and Jacqueline (Reich) Smith, and had one sibling, brother Mahlon. Justin’s father worked at an area hotel, and whenever the two boys visited him at work, they were convinced that their father owned the hotel.

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to San Antonio, TX, where he and his brother began grade school, and reveled in being spoiled rotten by their doting grandparents, Jack and Janet Reich. After four years in San Antonio, Justin’s father’s hospitality career led to a move back to Beaverton, Oregon, where Justin and Mahlon enjoyed being spoiled by their other grandparents, Quentin and Jean Smith.

Justin was a stellar student throughout his academic career, and attended a Math and Science satellite high school, part of Sunset High School. While in high school he was part of an Honors program that included a trip to England, Scotland, and Wales, a trip which whetted his appetite for future travel and exploration.

He graduated high school and elected to attend Southern Oregon University (SOU), in Ashland, Oregon to continue his education. He graduated with honors with a B.S. in Mathematics. During his time at SOU, he lived at times in an apartment, and at other times with his brother, who was working in Ashland at the time. His mother often made the 300 mile drive to spend time with her sons – Justin always made sure his cupboards were bare prior to her arrival so that she would take him grocery shopping.

Justin’s post-graduate work was accomplished at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon, where he graduated with an M.A. in Statistics. As a statistician, Justin knew that he wanted to work for the U.S. Census Bureau, in Washington, D.C., and was absolutely convinced that his job application there would be approved in very short order. Until that moment arrived, however, he moved back home with his parents and worked part-time for Standard Insurance Company.

Justin’s conviction regarding the Census Bureau proved correct, and he was hired in 2005, and made the move to the D.C. area to live in a high-rise apartment building in Alexandria, VA, with a view overlooking the Potomac River. He was so excited to begin his new career and lifestyle that he camped in his furniture-less apartment for several weeks, refusing all offers of comfortable hotel stays, until his car, furniture, and belongings arrived from Oregon. While his parents were concerned about “Baby Justin” being on his own, with no friends, in a new city and environment, Justin quickly adapted.

Justin met Yarissa when she began working at the Census Bureau in 2007. After a month or so of working together they realized they lived at the same apartment complex, just two floors apart, and they began carpooling. This was a saving grace for Yarissa, who does not like to drive and is half asleep in the morning. For Yarissa, the attraction to Justin was almost instant – he was smart, funny, kind, respectful and so handsome. Justin was so different from any other man she had met, and she hoped he would be interested in her as well.

During one of his mother’s visits, Jacquie and Justin ran into a very cute young lady who happened to be getting her mail. Justin was obviously interested, and his mother told him, “You should ask her out!” “Oh Mom, I can’t do that, she works at the Census Bureau too” – like dating a co-worker was taboo. Fortunately, Justin got over that silliness, and thus soon began dating the love of his life, Yarissa.

Yarissa loves to travel, and their romance included a trip to Paris, trips to Yarissa’s home in Puerto Rico, as well as numerous area explorations. Justin took Yarissa to Oregon to see where he grew up and went to school, and to meet his Oregon friends, and surprised her with a marriage proposal while walking on a Pacific Ocean beach near Haystack Rock (family joke: near a tide pool containing a dead seagull), in the picturesque coastal city of Cannon Beach.

Justin and Yarissa were married in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, on December 12, 2010. It was a beautiful, joyous occasion, with family members from both sides enjoying the festivities and getting to know each other. The ceremony was at a beautiful venue overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The day was perfect, the sun shined bright, and guests were cooled by the ocean breeze.

Justin and Yarissa returned to Alexandria to continue their careers with the Census Bureau. In April of 2013, they were blessed with the birth of their son, Mateo. Justin adored his son — he did everything to make him happy and to pass on to him his values and love for learning. As a baby, Mateo spent many hours on his dad’s chest while Justin was working on his computer; as a toddler they spent many hours playing and running around; and when Mateo began school Justin created many worksheets and hands-on activities to foster his learning and curiosity. Mateo was Justin’s world — he loved him immensely and he was an exceptional dad to him.

Justin was known for being funny, silly, smart, honest, and bull-headed. Once his mind was set, it was pretty much set. He was kind and generous and had an innate ability to relate to children. He had an immense curiosity regarding … just about everything. His interests were varied and included, among other things, chess, ham radio, martial arts, poetry, rap music, astronomy, languages (Spanish, Chinese, Amharic, American Sign Language), fencing, different cultures (specifically relating to food), finance (his well-performing portfolio was hand-selected), and travel. He studied American Kenpo to 1st-degree black belt level with his respected teacher, Len Garon, and he, Mateo, and Yarissa attended karate lessons as a family. Justin poured his soul into his website,, where he wrote many articles on all of his interests as well as many, many poems. Justin was an extraordinary human being who deserves to be celebrated — he will be deeply missed.

A celebration of Justin’s life will be held at Cunningham Turch Funeral Home, 811 Cameron St., Alexandria, on Wednesday, November 1st , at 6:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Sato Project ( ) or U.S. Chess Center ( ).

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Justin Zachary Smith, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Gathering / Celebration of Life

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

6:00 - 9:00 pm (Eastern time)

Cunningham Turch Funeral Home

811 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

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