For Alice Smith (born Newton), family was everything and community a close second. She was born and raised in Holyoke, and raised her own family here. “My mother was a gracious lady with a warm smile and a wonderful laugh,” says Eliza Childs, one of Alice’s four daughters. “She was well read, always pleasant and an energetic and organized volunteer. She believed in supporting her community with her talents and her treasure. It was, I believe, a trait passed down in her family, but my mother excelled at it.”
After graduating from Vassar College in 1936 and working for a few years as a bookkeeper and secretary in Boston, Alice married Benjamin W. Childs, also a Holyoke native, in 1943. When Ben finished his service in the U.S. Navy, the couple returned to Holyoke. Alice gave birth to their four daughters at Holyoke Hospital (as it was then called). Sadly, her youngest daughter, also named Alice, died of leukemia at the hospital in 1956. “My father, who was born at home and later died at home, was never admitted to any hospital in his lifetime,” says Eliza. “But most of the rest of us have been there at one time or another.”
For the Childs family, Holyoke Medical Center has been a partner in sickness, but also in health. Alice was an active volunteer, and a very capable one. She was involved with the Holyoke Hospital Aid Association, serving as chairman and in many other roles. In the 1930s, she was one of the original Spinsters, founding the annual ball that was a successful fundraiser for the hospital for nearly 50 years. Alice also served on the hospital’s board of directors and was chairman of several Follies shows (a series of fundraising musical revues featuring local talent), treasurer for the coffee shop, an honorary co-chair of the 1993 centennial celebration, and more.
After the death of her first husband, Alice married William H. Smith, a former president of the Holyoke Savings Bank, in 1993. Alice died November 18, 2015, leaving more than $375,000 in her estate to Holyoke Medical Center. More valuable still, she left a legacy of love, generosity, and lives made richer for her having touched them.
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