By Sara Jane Richter, Ph. D.
1971 HHS Grad
With a goal of improving others’ vision, John Orval Smith, O.D. has forged a welcome and successful career in Hennessey since January 1982. He intends to retire by the end of 2022, ending a 30 year stay in Hennessey, and he’s happy that he’s spent nearly half his life here.
Originally from Kingfisher, Smith didn’t always want to be an optometrist. Because he loved math, he thought he’d become a math teacher. However, as most early career dreams end, it wasn’t his final destination.
He and his brother helped his father at his job as ranch foreman and with his crop spraying service. Both jobs required hard work, and the father suggested that his sons prepare for careers that didn’t demand such hard labor and long hours. John’s brother decided to be a dentist, but John determined that he didn’t want to stare into others’ mouths daily. He’d rather look into people’s eyes.
John attended OSU, transferring to Southwestern Oklahoma State University a year later where he gained professional pre-requisites for optometry school. He secured admission to the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Arkansas, on the first try, something that doesn’t always happen.
After graduating in 1981, he secured licensure in 1982 and now had to establish a professional practice. Kingfisher and Enid had enough optometrists; however, none practiced in Hennessey. He believed Hennessey a fertile location to begin.
He has had the same office space for 30 years and has tended to hundreds of patients through the years. Because he claims he lacks organizational skills, he has relied on outstanding office help. He certainly has that now in Wilma Bohnstedt, a longstanding employee who can do about anything required of her in the office.
Smith and his wife Cindy have one daughter, Jamie, a veterinarian who practices in Fairview and Cleo Springs. Throughouth his career, his greatest joys came when he could ease people’s eye discomfort and improve people’s vision. The relief that showed on his patients’ faces when they slipped on that first pair of glasses revealing heretofore unseen details has given him great satisfaction. His greatest dissatisfaction came when he gave advice to patients who never followed it and their vision and lives never improved as much as they should have. However, those disappointments dim once retirement becomes a reality.
In retirement, he and Cindy will travel via car, bus, and ship and learn about new things and places. He and his family enjoy history and geography, so travel plans come naturally. They also will spend time with their two young grandchildren. In addition to traveling, he will continue a new role: helping disaster relief efforts. Cindy has led the way in this endeavor, for since her retirement from teaching, she has worked as part of a team providing aid to people hit by hurricanes, floods, and fires—from western Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. He and she also help out at an isolated church camp near Vici. After making friends with the camp owner, they help clean, repair, and winterize cabins and do odd jobs around the site. Too, he works with Remote Area Medical from Tennessee. These people travel to outlying locations offering medical help to those who cannot or reach these services. Being selfless is one of Dr. Smith’s best qualities.
Besides helping others, John will pursue his two personal passions: hunting and fishing. If you don’t believe that he’s a dedicated outdoorsman, just look at the wonderful mural on the north side of his office space south of Hennessey. Dr. Smith’s friends and patients know him as a quiet, rather shy, and competent physician. He may not talk a lot or comfortably, but he possesses boundless energy, good intentions, and great faith. He has seen the world through others’ eyes for 30 years, and now, he has time and leisure to see the world as he wishes to view it. Soon, Smith can read to the alphabet chronologically, not haphazardly like the “F P T O Z L P E D” of an eye exam chart. Hennessey-ites are blessed that he established his practice in their community. He has done good and will continue to do good, for doing good is his vision of life.