The story of Dr. Frederick Cleveland Smith, namesake of the former Smith Clinic in Marion, is rich and steeped in Marion history. In his 71 years, he was a physician, world traveler, mayor, and congressman.
Born in Shanesville, Ohio, in 1884, Smith earned his degree in osteopathic medicine from A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri, and practiced there for several years. He also studied medicine abroad in Frankfurt, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, before becoming licensed to practice medicine and surgery in Ohio in 1917 and establishing his practice in Marion.
In 1925, he founded the Frederick C. Smith Clinic in Marion, which brought together doctors in various fields in a practice that benefited from each doctor’s specialty. The original clinic was located downtown at 240 E. Church St., later moving to new facilities at 1040 Delaware Ave. in the 1950s. Smith was an astute businessman, as well as a doctor, and pioneered the multi-discipline medical clinic concept.
As if this were not enough, Smith, a staunch Republican, ventured into politics and became mayor of Marion from 1936 to 1939. He resigned this position because, in the midst of this, in 1938, he was elected to the 76th U.S. Congress. He served in five succeeding Congresses, from 1939-1951, before resuming his medical practice in Marion.
He passed in 1956, but not before establishing a legacy in Marion.
His two sons, Dr. Frederick G. Smith and Dr. Philip W. Smith, followed in his footsteps into the medical profession, both becoming doctors and both serving at Smith Clinic as president and medical director. In 1957, the sons began the fundraising for a new hospital by creating the Mary Elizabeth Smith Foundation, named after their mother. The Smith Foundation was dedicated to research, education, and service for the improvement of medical care of patients. The charter members of the hospital board included many recognizable names – R.T. Lewis, Robert VanSickle, Paul Bachman, W. Hoover Brown, Floyd Browne, Jasper Burt, Adrien Busick, Thomas Fetter, Robert O’Connor, Richard Probst, David Reich, and William Showhan.
Smith Clinic’s original 10 doctors contributed $200,000 as the seed money to build a new hospital. Joining them in supporting this new venture were donations from Marion Power Shovel, Whirlpool, Wyandot, and many other local businesses. An entirely community driven effort, Community Memorial Hospital was opened in 1962, funded entirely on private donations, without any public monies.
In 1975, the hospital was renamed MedCenter Hospital; at the same time, the Mary Elizabeth Smith Foundation which supported it, and owned the hospital and clinic buildings, was renamed the MedCenter Hospital Foundation.
The MedCenter Hospital Foundation’s board of governors was led by GTE executive Bob Wopat for almost 30 years, and included more well-known Marion community leaders – Warren Brown, Dick Studer, Wayne Kuhn, Dick Probst, Deborah Alspach, Charles Garvin, and Henry Heinzmann, among others. The Smith Clinic and its physicians financially supported the MedCenter Hospital Foundation. Wopat was president in 1998 when MedCenter’s assets were sold to OhioHealth Marion General Hospital. The proceeds from that sale—plus a change of name and purpose—created what is now Marion Community Foundation.
Marion Community Foundation, which hosts the annual Celebrate Marion Gala, this year honored Dr. Frederick C. Smith among the 22 People, Places, Products, and Programs which have made positive contributions to Marion, Ohio. The MarionMade! community pride effort is a program of the Foundation.
“We wish to acknowledge Dr. Frederick C. Smith and his sons for the legacy they have created for the Marion area,” said Dean Jacob, president and CEO. “Through the creation of the Smith Clinic by Dr. Frederick Smith, the efforts of his sons, and the vision and foresight of the board of trustees of the MedCenter Hospital Foundation to restructure itself into a community foundation, we have Marion Community Foundation—which will charitably benefit the community in perpetuity. Thanks to our generous donors, we support the community with $1.6 million+ annually in student scholarships and grants to hard working nonprofits and optimistically look forward to doing more in the future.”