‘A special woman’
While most people are planning their weekend schedules, Marion Smith is preparing to don her uniform and go to work, for free.
For almost four decades, the Apple Hill resident has been a St. John Ambulance volunteer, keeping an eye out for potential medical emergencies at sporting events, fairs and auctions.
“She is a special woman,” notes Marian Hemingway who suggested The News contact Mrs. Smith in order to recognize her milestone achievement.
This year Mrs. Smith completed no less than 37 years and more than 20,000 hours of volunteer community service.
“Most people don’t know what the St. John Ambulance is,” observes Mrs. Smith who is Deputy Unit Chief responsible for member service coordination with the Cornwall-based division 103.
The emergency responders are not paid; the organization relies on donations to cover operating costs.
“We do really appreciate any donations we receive from community groups,” she says.
At one time, her public duties would take her to six events on one weekend. “I am slowing down now. I am picking and choosing my duties more carefully now,” she says. For example, last Saturday she had a “short duty,” about five hours at an auction.
St. John Ambulance volunteers are usually not noticed, until they are needed to deal with injuries, heart attacks or heat strokes. They are also trained to extricate victims from wrecked vehicles, resuscitate animals, and rescue people from roof tops.
She, her husband, Winston, and their two daughters have all served as volunteers. The family’s involvement goes back to 1976 when they moved to Alma, New Brunswick. At that time ambulance services for rural areas of New Brunswick were provided under contract with St. John Ambulance. “I was a stay-at-home mother, looking for something to do. We did not have a lot of money so I thought volunteering would be a good idea.”
Years ago, Mrs. Smith demonstrated she possessed the necessary sang froid to keep her head while others are losing theirs. “I had been called into the bush where a person had collapsed while picking wild garlic. I could tell the person was already dead.” As the deceased’s companion became increasingly distressed, Mrs. Smith realized she had to remain composed. “I knew that if I did not calm down the other person, I would soon have another casualty to deal with.”
Born in Saskatchewan, Mrs. Smith recalls that because of her husband’s job with the federal government, the Smiths moved often, arriving in Apple Hill in 1982.
She joined the Cornwall St. John Ambulance division in 1985, when there were six members. After she served as Superintendent for six years, the number of members had increased to 20.
A training officer, she was certified as a first aid and home health care instructor in 1984 and as a first aid and CPR instructor in 1992.
“I did a lot of pioneer work,” she remarks.
She assembled the equipment for and taught the first baby-sitting course for the Cornwall branch.
She also taught the first pet first aid course for the branch. There were no training aids at that time so she and her husband innovated. They had to show students that if they blew too hard to revive a small animal, they could damage its lungs. So the Smiths modified a toy kitten with tubes and “lungs” so that when proper ventilation was applied to the cat’s nose, its chest responded appropriately. “Lots of fun!”
Mrs. Smith has also found time to be an active member of the con- gregation at the Martintown Presbyterian Church.
She has been presented accolades by some very high-profile Canadians for her service as a first responder.
She received the Priory Vote of Thanks in 1987, was admitted to the Order of St. John as a Serving Sister by then-Governor General Raymond Hnatyshyn in 1990, and was promoted to Officer in the Order of St. John by Adrienne Clarkson, when she was Governor General in 2000.
At the time, she wondered, “What am I getting this for?”
In retrospect, she has an appreciation for the sheer number of hours she has devoted to the nonprofit organization. She jokes that the time zone may have not played in her favour. “When we moved from New Brunswick, we lost a few hours.”
DEDICATION: Marion Smith, of Apple Hill, with a certificate recognizing her 20,000 hours of volunteer work with the St. John Ambulance.