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As a young widow and single mother in the 1950s and '60s, Daisy Smith received help from numerous neighbors and teachers in her quest to be a nurse.
So when the Toledo Council of Black Nurses' executive director and long-time disease prevention advocate found out she is being inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Tuesday, Ms. Smith was surprised.
"I really don't know for what," the Toledo woman said last week. "I really don't know why, because I think a lot of people do things for other people.
"I don't feel like I was doing more than any of the other people who give their time."
Yet Ms. Smith, who became one of Toledo's first black registered nurses in 1963, embodies the productivity and enjoyment that should be part of everyone's older years as she continues to educate the community about disease prevention, the Ohio Department of Aging says.
She and 12 other senior Ohioans, including Mary Jane Hawk of Lima, will be inducted today during a ceremony at the Capitol Theatre in Columbus. A retired school psychological counselor, Ms. Hawk serves on several community boards and speaks to groups about her vision loss from macular degeneration four years ago.
More than 300 people have been inducted into the Ohio Senior Hall of Fame since it was founded in 1977. Ohioans are nominated to the hall of fame based on service to others and achievements after age 60, along with lifetime work representing positive aging.
Also today, Gary, Joy, and Faith Ferkel of Fremont and Norma Lusk of Delphos will be given Elder Caregiver Awards from the Ohio Department of Aging. They are among Ohioans being honored for taking care of elderly relatives and friends in their homes.
Ms. Smith founded the Toledo Council of Black Nurses in 1981 to help other African-Americans pursue a nursing career. The council started giving nursing scholarships and then got involved with disease prevention throughout the community, working with the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and other groups, she said.
A member of the Toledo-Lucas County Commission on Minority Health, Ms. Smith also has worked with University of Toledo professor James Price to research minority health disparities. She helps organize health screenings and fairs since retiring from what is now Mercy Health Partners in 1975 and the Cordelia Martin Community Health Center in 2000, as well as doing private nursing.
Ms. Smith said she couldn't have pursued a nursing career without support from neighbors who cared for her children while she worked and went back to school, as well as from teachers who helped her get accepted into what is now the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, formerly the Medical College of Ohio. All three of her children graduated from college and have had good careers, she said.
"Toledo really has been very kind to me, and I really feel that I owe the town something," said Ms. Smith, who was a licensed practical nurse before becoming a registered nurse.
One issue Ms. Smith declines to talk about is her age, but she gladly points out a gold "39 and holding" necklace her pharmacist granddaughter, Marcella Flournoy of Toledo, gave her. "Everybody in Toledo knows that I'm 39," Ms. Smith said with a laugh.
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: