Although we have never met Dr. Patricia Smith, one of the Editors has found her story-reproduced below-during his reading.
Dr. Smith was a remarkable woman who had dedicated her life to the disinherited people of the South Vietnamese Highlands.
She almost lost her life during the 1968 Tet attack on Kontum. She continued her humanitarian work until 1972 when again
she had to run for her life during another attack. In a last humanitarian act, she managed to take with her two Montagnard
orphans, whom she raised as her own children in her homestate of Washington.
She stood for all that is noble in human nature: hard work, love, dedication and compassion.
She will forever remain in our hearts and prayers.
Looking at Dr. Taylor's past, one has to be impressed by her credentials. If credentials are not a problem, guests' disenchantement with
the program may be related to her choice of painters. As a scholar, she might be more interested in showing us the "multiple faces of
Vietnamese society and the diversity of artistic expressions" rather than the beauty of the artistry itself. That may explain why the
exhibition did not convey to me at least a sense of originality, strength, and experimentation.
Dr. Taylor has decided to focus on women painters because they paint life as it relates to them and in a sense they are painting themselves
for themselves. Male painters tend to paint abstract objects or heroic topics. The exhibition is not balanced as far as regional distribution
is concerned as mentioned above. Therefore it is not representative of Vietnamese arts in general. Had it been listed as "Hanoi women
artists" instead of "women artists in Vietnam", the title would be more appropriate. When asked about the regional imbalance, she stated that
she was more familiar with Hanoi painters since she had studied there before.
|Doc Grandma Plots Return to Highlands
| SAIGON (AP) --The big grandmother of medicine is busting to get back to the highlands of Vietnam, and it may take more than an enemy
offensive and a French bishop to stop her.
"There's no hope for Kontum, or I wouldn't have left," said Pat Smith, the American woman doctor who was evacuated last week from the
hospital she founded for Montagnard tribesmen. "But maybe I can fly to Pleiku and helicopter up in the daylight hours."
The indomitable, blunt-talking woman the Montagnards call "ya pogang tih"-big grandmother of medicine -sat on the step of Catholic Relief
Services plotting her return to the war zone, where she has experienced 13 years of terror, disease, squalor, frustration and triumph.
"Two weeks ago," she recalled, "the bishop said he had a surplus of 800 enrolling in the schools and it was all my fault because Montagnard
child mortality had dropped from 75 per cent to almost zero in the villages served by the hospital."
Beside her in the dirt, Det, 5, and Wir, 3, her adopted Montagnard war orphans, played at building a helicopter landing zone.
"I hate this war," said Dr. Pat. "I've grown so tired of it, but I love those people."
She narrowly escaped death in March, 1968, just after the Tet offensive, when North Vietnamese troops invaded Minh Quy Hospital, shot up
the labs and X-ray room and captured Renata Kuhnen, her German nurse. A human blanket of more than 30 Montagnard staff and patients lay
on top of the doctor and hid her, while enemy troops ran through the wards tossing grenades, shooting women and children in the legs and
demanding, "where are the Americans?"
After four years of rebuilding, putting in new labs, a kitchen and a laundry, Dr. Pat was getting ready to move her 87-bed hospital out of
a borrowed school house back to the original grounds when the current enemy offensive erupted.
Trouble had been building all week, as the clipboard in the emergency ward showed: Resettlement villages overrun, a boy shot in the stomach
while fishing, two girls killed and another wounded when an enemy patrol raked them bathing in a stream. On Sunday a mortar shell exploded
near the church, wounding a number of children coming out of Mass. By Tuesday a fire base to the west was overrun, the road north was cut
and the airport was under constant shelling.
"You must go," Msgr. Paul Seitz, the last French bishop left in Vietnam told her. "Kontum is lost. They will kill every American here.
I am a French citizen. It will be different for me."
Gathering up Det, whose mother has been killed by Viet Cong, and Wir, abandoned in a burned out village. Dr. Pat turned the hospital
over to Sister Gabriel, her most experienced Montagnard nurse, and boarded the helicopter on the lawn.
Shells were lobbing into the Kontum airport and a plane and truck were on fire, when the chopper sat down to refuel. The doctor's dilemma
made the full Vietnamese circle when refugees stormed aboard the plane she changed to at Pleiku and swiped the suitcase containing the
children's clothing and Det's adoption papers.
The dedicated humanitarian, who learned surgery at the operating table with the help of a textbook and any American doctors available to
help out, had a few non-humanitarian things to say on that subject.
"Now besides getting up to the hospital when I can, my main concern is to get pass-ports and visas for stinker-poo here," she said
patting Wir's bristly crewcut, "and his brother, so I can get them out of the country to the United States."
Home for them, for a while anyway, will be Seattle, where Pat Smith went to medical and where a loyal group of supporters called
the Kontum Hospital Fund provides most of her financial backing.
Home for her will always be Kontum, although she doubts it ever will be retaken if it falls.
A big raw-boned woman, who declines to give her age but is never afraid to speak her mind about the enemy, the government or church
bureaucrats, she believes South Vietnam missed its chance to pacify the highlands when it turned down proposals in 1965 for a 59,000
man all Montagnard army with American advisers.
"The tribes said they could have cleared out all the Viet Cong in three weeks," said Dr. Pat. "And they probably could have."
"There hasn't been a voluntary recruit from a Montagnard village to the Communist side in six or seven years. The enemy lost its appeal
when it began kidnapping children and exchanging them for men in the village to act as porters and learn fighting. Now terror is the
whole purpose of attacks on villages: just to show the government can't protect the people. And it's always the resettled villages,
those that moved to get to a more secure area. We have one near us that has been hit five times."
From The Stars and Stripes 1972
According to the Seattle Times (January 1, 2005), Dr. Smith died Dec. 26, 2004 in Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia at age 78.
"She was an amazing person," said Wir Smith, her son who is a Seattle musician. "She was really a little like Mother Teresa."
Dr. Smith and her work have been chronicled in numerous articles, and she was the subject of a CBS television documentary.
There even are pictures of her in the White House with President Nixon.
She settled in Bellevue and worked for Group Health Cooperative for 20 years, retiring in 1997 and moving to Lake Cushman near Hoodsport,
Mason County. There, she found time to indulge her love of murder mysteries and crossword puzzles.
| Please read the rest of the story in REMEMBERING SAIGON.