NASSAU, Bahamas – Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer-turned-companion recalled her in worshipful terms Friday at a memorial in the Bahamas, the island nation that became the center of a bitter custody dispute when the reality TV star died in Florida a year earlier.
Howard K. Stern, speaking to dozens of people gathered at the cemetery where Smith and her son are buried, said there was "nobody stronger, nobody smarter, nobody more compassionate, nobody funnier and certainly nobody more beautiful" than the former model and actress.
Smith died Feb. 8, 2007, in Hollywood, Florida, from an overdose of prescription drugs. The former Playboy playmate, model and potential heir to an oil fortune was 39.
"We loved her. We respected her," Stern said. "I worshipped her and I still do."
Smith and Stern moved to the Bahamas, where they lived in a gated, oceanfront home on New Providence Island and she gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn, in September 2006.
Smith's death set off a fight over where she should be buried and who would get custody of Dannielynn -- Stern, ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead or Virgie Arthur, the former model's mother. Custody of the girl eventually went to Birkhead after DNA tests proved he was the father.
Birkhead and Dannielynn attended the memorial service at the pink-walled Lakeview Memorial Gardens along with dozens of Smith's friends from the United States and the Bahamas.
Smith played the part of a dizzy blonde bombshell, but Stern told the mourners it was just a role -- and she was aware that people tried to take advantage of her.
"Few people who knew Anna might not realize how smart she actually was because unless she wanted you to know you didn't know," he said.
"When Anna died part of me died. The best part," he added.
Within days of Dannielynn's birth, Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel, died while visiting his celebrity mother in a Nassau hospital. A coroner and a private pathologist hired by the family concluded he likely died from a combination of drugs, including methadone and antidepressants.
An inquest to establish the formal cause of death has proceeded fitfully since it began last month because of efforts to bring witnesses from outside the Bahamas. It is scheduled to resume next month.
Smith married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. He died in 1995 and Smith fought Marshall's family over his estimated $US500 (euro345) million estate.