Norma Z. Smith passed away peacefully on April 6, 2021, at the Mercy Ridge Retirement
Community Facility in Timonium, Maryland. Norma was 102.
In 1960, Norma was hired as the first, full-time public health nurse at Ridge School in Towson, a
school for special needs children. In 1972, a memo to all nursing personnel from Margaret B.
Englerth, Director of Public Nursing, stated “Effective November 8, 1972, Norma Z. Smith is
named the Public Health Nursing Supervisor for Special Needs Schools.”
The former Norma Nadian Zeigler was the daughter of Anna E. Hivner, a homemaker, and A.
Willis Zeigler, telegraph operator on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Norma grew up in York County,
Pennsylvania, in the Susquehanna River town of Goldsboro, PA, and graduated from New
Cumberland High School in 1935.
In an interview for her retirement home’s newsletter, at the time of her Centennial birthday,
Norma stated that “from age seven, following the death of my father, I understood the hardships
my mother endured and knew I must one day provide for myself and earn a living. My heart
yearned to be a teacher or a librarian, but financially it was impossible, so I became a nurse. The
Spanish flu pandemic 1918-1920 had caught the world community unprepared, resulting in an
ongoing demand for medical personnel. Tuition at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Hospital School of
Nursing cost $50 in 1938. “Within four years I earned an R.N, and married my High School
sweetheart, Woodward Reese Smith, who was an iron worker and later, army Captain. I stayed
two more years at Jefferson to become the second married nurse on staff and the first female
Head Nurse in the Urology Ward.”
“After the war, Woodward and I bought a home in Loch Raven Village, and while he traveled the
East Coast building bridges, the responsibility for our three children fell primarily to me. Barbara
and Roger were healthy children, but Judith, our middle child was born with Down Syndrome,
requiring boundless attention. At her birth, I was terrified because support systems were
negligible to non-existence for people with handicaps. Gradually, I came to understand that
Judith was a blessing. In 1956, I began volunteering at Ridge School where Judith was receiving
services to achieve her full potential. When the Baltimore County Health Department offered me
the position as the first public health nurse at Ridge School, I realized a calling and plunged into
my studies to earn my B.S. and M.Ed. degrees. By the time I retired, I had become the Nursing
Supervisor of all twelve Special Needs Schools in Baltimore County.” Norma earned her B.S. in
Nursing from the University of Maryland, and in 1976, a M.Ed from Loyola College.
Norma’s daughter, Barbara Smith Law, recalled the folder her mother kept which contained all
her professional accomplishments, including numerous letters of commendation from superiors
over the years. One supervisor wrote “Mrs. Smith has a keen insight into patient’s problems and
does a thorough job, whether nursing in the clinic or home visiting. Her understanding of nursing
concepts, the ability to access community resources and her untiring energy are remarkable.”
Another supervisor called her “extremely dedicated and meticulous to all the demands of the
assignments.” Norma was named Maryland Nurse of the Year by the March of Dimes in 1979.
Upon her retirement, County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson, recognized her outstanding
service in the care of children with handicaps, by proclaiming May 17, 1985, as Norma Smith
One of Norma’s childhood stories mentions that in 1928, when she was ten years old, she sent
the largest valentine from a package of forty, that was purchased from a Sears, Roebuck and
Company catalog to President Elect Herbert Hoover, whose Presidency later became
overshadowed by the Great Depression and the Wall Street crash. At age eleven, Norma sent a
second Valentine card to President Hoover, and then at age twelve, she sent a third card.
Enclosed in the third card was a quarter for the Red Cross drought relief fund to alleviate the
plight of children in the drought states to enable them to buy bread. Following thank you notes
she received from the White House and the American Red Cross for the card, reports appeared in
newspapers countrywide, including the Washington Herald. Norma’s Mother, somewhat
embarrassed by the small donation her daughter sent, said, “If I knew all this would happen, I’d
have given you a dollar.”
Norma finally got to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch,
Iowa, in 1997, where she talked to Archivist Dale Mayer. He asked for copies of the materials
she still had in her possession, and when he received them, he called to say he had found, in the
President’s papers, two of Norma’s valentines mailed some 68 years earlier. Mr. Mayer made
copies for her to share with her family. One was in the form of a bank note which read, ‘Can I
bank on you to be my Valentine?’ The second valentine was a small grey elephant with a big red
heart. These can now be seen in the Museum. Unfortunately, the third card which had held the
quarter, could not be found in the Red Cross archives.
When time allowed, Norma and her husband, Woodward, traveled the globe, visiting all the
continents except Antarctica. They presented over two hundred travel talks to civic and church
groups, showing slides and sharing their adventures.
In 1992, with the help of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Philippine Branch Office, Norma and
Woodward began sponsoring a three-year old Amerasian child, with whom Norma continued to
correspond until her death. Norma and Woodward were married 70 years.
Always a health enthusiast, Norma was a prolific reader of medical publications all her life. Prior
to her move to Mercy Ridge, she was a regular member for many years at a local Health Center,
attending water aerobics classes three days weekly. Norma enjoyed literature and classical
studies and after moving to Mercy Ridge, she continued the Great Courses series, pool exercising
and traveling made available through Mercy Ridge.
Norma is survived by her daughter, Barbara Smith Law, of Maryland and her son, W. Roger
Smith of Oklahoma, her granddaughter, Jessica Law Williams and her great grandchildren,
Logan and Rachael. Norma’s daughter, Judith Ann, died in 2011 at the age of 64, three months
prior to the death of Norma’s husband, Woodward, age 93, 1917 – 2011.
Funeral services are scheduled for 10:00 AM Friday, April 16, 2021 at William E. Little Funeral
Homes, Inc., 60 South Main Street, Manchester, with The Rev. Harold Cahill officiating.
Visitation will be 9-10:00 AM. Burial will be in Paddletown Cemetery, Newberrytown.
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