Joan Sanders Smith
Einstein Untold: Unsung Heroes and Unknown Stories

After Building Stable Life on a Shaky Foundation, She Supports Others

By on 03/07/2022
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One in an ongoing series

The life of Joan Sanders Smith is a portrait of stability.

She’s worked in clerical positions for 22 years, many of them at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. She’s 75 years old and is still working part time. She has four children, a dozen grandchildren, a husband and many friends.

She’s so conscientious and committed to her work that she was honored with a Keeper of the Dream Award on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Smith’s determinedly stable life is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Because she grew up in chaos.

Smith’s mother died when she was 2 years old. She witnessed her father being shot to death by a girlfriend when she was 6.

She and her 11 siblings were separated, and she and two sisters were raised together by foster parents who were cruel and abusive. When she was a senior in high school, she ran away; years later, she ran away from an abusive husband.

Stability Out of Misfortune

The misfortune could have led to a spiral of self-destruction. Instead it propelled Smith to create a stable and solid life.

“Sometimes life takes a tragic turn and people turn to bad things. I could have been one of those women who sit in a bar every day,” she says. “So I said, ‘Joan, you’ve had a lot of stuff happen to you, but so have other people. There are ways you can work out situations without becoming part of the tragedy, or becoming a statistic.”

Smith attributes her triumph over adversity to her faith, her family, and fulfilling work.

“I always liked what I did,” she says. “I’m really blessed there. I’ve had good jobs in my life.”

With the encouragement of a second foster family, Smith attended junior college and became a secretary, following in the steps of an older sister who was her inspiration and role model.

She was working at Montgomery Hospital Medical Center when it merged Einstein Healthcare Network. She then transitioned to Einstein Medical Center Montgomery upon its opening in 2012.  

Smith retired from full-time work three years ago, and now works part-time replenishing supplies on the hospital’s surgical carts and crash carts, and helping process online surgical bills.   

A Support for Everyone

Smith “is the Mama Bear . . . that everyone relies on for help,” said Maureen Brandi, Director of Perioperative Services at Einstein Montgomery, who nominated her for the Keeper of the Dream Award. “She is a wealth of knowledge and brings the department together.”

When Smith isn’t working, she spends much of her time with her 2½-year-old granddaughter and also with her second husband, whom she married when she was 68 and he was 74.

“He’s a nice, nice man,” she says. “He treats me good. He’s very gentle.”

But Smith also endured another tragedy six years ago, when her oldest son died at the age of 45.  “I’m still not over it,” she says. “He was always there for me. We talked every day.” She also has lost seven of her 11 siblings.

Still, Smith’s manner is upbeat and she appreciates the joy in her life. She’s created a backyard “oasis” for family and friends. She put in a swing set, a sliding board and a sandy area for her granddaughter, and a bar and hammock for the adults.

Smith often has “girls night” around the fire pit with her daughters, granddaughters, and girlfriends. “There’s usually five of us, sometimes more. We always have food, maybe a little wine. We put on music and we dance.”

But the most cherished moment of Smith’s triumph over chaos? “When my daughter told me I was her role model,” she says.

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