Washington lost a jewel this week

Dear Editor,

Washington lost a great part of its community and heritage this week when Dr. Max L Smith passed away at age 94. He will forever be missed in Washington and his legacy of “Goodness” will live on for many years into the future. His life deserves much attention and discussion.

Max was a hero of mine … Let me explain.

In 1967, I turned 16 years old and I was working part-time at Hy-Vee there in town making $1.60 per hour. I barely made enough to buy a few clothes occasionally and meet the needs a young kid has for social activities and things like snacks and pop.

Contact lenses were becoming very popular in America and I wanted some very badly so I could get rid of the glasses I had worn since I was 12 years old. I wanted the “Fashionable Look.”

So, knowing my parents would not buy the contact lenses for me, I made an appointment (free) to go and discuss it with Dr. Smith. I anxiously awaited my appointment day and when the day arrived, I went to his office there just a block south of the SE corner of the Square and presented myself to the Office Secretary at the front desk. I was nervous because I knew that the contact lenses would be much higher in cost than I had the money to pay for.

I was right.

After examining my eyes for a long time, Dr. Smith rolled away from the piece of equipment he was using to look into my eyes and he sat back in his chair. I could see him thinking about what he’d found in his examination. As I sat there, he started to talk. He said his examination of my eyes showed that I’d be a good candidate for the new contact lenses and he explained the good points of wearing them instead of glasses. I knew the whole time, he was leading up to the price. When he said they’d be $225, my heart sank because I knew I didn’t have that kind of money and it would be way out of my reach. I am sure he could see the disappointment written all over my face as I sat there.

It was then that Dr. Smith said “You really want these, don’t you?” I acknowledged the comment with a “Yes, Sir.” And then I heard what he said next. It changed everything.

Dr. Smith said “I’ll make you a deal. I will get you outfitted with these contact lenses in the next few weeks and in return, you have to agree to bring in $10. every other week until the bill is paid. Will you make that kind of a deal with me?”

I am sure I was grinning ear-to-ear as he finished explaining his “Deal” with me. I quickly said “Yes, I will make that deal with you. That’s GREAT!” So, the next couple of weeks came and went and I kept all of my appointments with Dr. Smith and I got my new contact lenses. I was so happy to have them.

Every other week for the next 45 weeks, I presented myself at his office to pay my $10 payment for the contact lenses. When the payments were done, I was so proud and I felt I learned a great lesson from Dr. Max Smith.

The lesson ? ... “Have faith in people.”

I used that lesson as a guide in Management over the next 34 years with Hy-Vee. As a Store Manager in three different stores, I had innumerable occasions to “Have Faith In Someone.” That philosophy never failed me.

Dr. Max Smith was a hero of mine for sure … and 52 years later, I am still wearing contact lenses.

Rest In Peace, Doc … Thanks for what you taught me.

(And for the wonderful eyesight too!)

Yes, Washington Lost A Jewel This Week.

Rick Lampkin, of Ft. Myers, Florida