In Memoriam – A Tribute to John Smith

The Villager, 2019

Central Baptist Village lost the physical presence of a quiet and powerful leader when Board President John M. Smith passed away in August, but the indelible legacy of the 15 years he spent serving on CBV’s Board remains in a culture of kindness and warmth he fostered, and the community he helped build among residents, staff and loved ones.

Beyond the board meetings and budgets, the committees and strategic plans, fundraising and tough decisions, he recognized what really set Central Baptist Village apart. “John instinctively knew how important it was to create a real community—not just a sense of community,” says Dawn Mondschein, CEO. “And he knew how to make the social glue that bonds people.” An athlete and coach his whole life, John loved games and challenges and brought them into both his professional and volunteer roles, using fun and competition to unite people. “I’ll never forget one day when he came into my office carrying a Michael’s bag filled with wooden birdhouses and craft supplies,” Mondschein recalls fondly. “He handed them to me and said, ‘have a birdhouse competition.’ And I thought to myself, what is he thinking?” She chuckles and shakes her head. “But we went ahead and did it and it created this buzz… staff, residents, everyone got into it!”

The culture which John helped bring about was one in which there was always room for improvement, but the emphasis was on teamwork, positivity and achieving higher and higher standards. “His number one directive to me was, ‘delight the residents. Delight the residents and everything else will follow,’” says Mondschein. Even when he wasn’t at Central Baptist Village, it was on his mind. He would anonymously tour, or “mystery shop,” other continuing care retirement communities to discover what they offered, how they compared to CBV. He always came back and shared with Mondschein what he’d seen and learned. “And he always told me, ‘we do it better,’ or ‘no one’s doing what we’re doing.’”

He believed so strongly in CBV’s mission, its staff and the genuine warmth it offered residents, that he brought his mother to live at CBV even though there were other CCRCs much closer to his home and more convenient. After she passed, when the beautifully landscaped Memory Garden was completed in 2015, he dedicated its visual centerpiece, a stunning fountain, to her memory. Each time he came to CBV, he would go there to remember her and pray, so it’s fitting that a plaque in his honor will forever face her fountain. To remember John Smith, though, all you need to do is walk through CBV and let the infectious spirit of camaraderie he fostered lift you up. That spirit of community, that’s John Smith.