Hometown Heroes: Northwood residents Mike and Betty Smith  are always ‘trying to pay it back.’

  • Mike and Betty Smith in front of their Northwood home on Friday. They moved in 11 years ago and remain committed to helping others. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/14/2022 7:23:54 PM

As has happened with past winners, the latest individual chosen for Hometown Hero status had no idea that he’d been nominated by an admirer.

In this case, Priscilla Merrill of Northwood had watched senior couple Betty and Mike Smith continue their trail of unselfishness after they moved to town 11 years ago from Maine.

She watched the Smiths hand out food during the holidays, cook for others who needed a hand, promote the local library and drive other seniors to their appointments.

They never met a local committee they didn’t like and they remain a huge presence at the Northwood Congregational Church.

Merrill noted that Mike and Betty perform these volunteer acts of kindness despite their own health woes. Mike has arthritis in his back, a painful experience that he’s learned to live with.

Betty had both knees replaced five years ago and a hip four months ago. She calls herself bionic. She says the hardware inside her knees and hip set off the sensors at airports.

“I feel pretty good,” Betty said. “It takes a little longer and we have to sit down more often, but it still works.”

They lived in Maine, in the Portland area, where Mike was a supervisor at the Portland airport and Betty worked as a registered nurse for health care agencies.

Mike served in the Navy for 20 years, retiring as a First Class Petty Officer. They moved to Northwood 11 years ago and picked up where they left off in Maine.

Merrill was watching and felt compelled to contact the Monitor and not the Smiths, aware that, considering their humble ways, they might have shied away from any press coverage to avoid talking about themselves.

“They got so involved in our town and they don’t receive any credit at all,” Merrill said. “They’re not concerned with getting pats on their backs. They’re not narcissists who want everybody to know everything they’ve done. But I could talk about them all day.”

They appreciate the lives they’ve had together, so they give to others, taking nothing for granted. As Mike Smith said, “Our time and our life have been good to us. We’re trying to pay it back.”

The Smiths joined others to create a car service called the Ready Ride Program. Betty was a charter member at the start, about 10 years ago, and that was just one year after the couple had moved to Northwood.

The volunteer, free-of-charge program now serves 10 towns in the area. Most elderly people request rides for medical and physical therapy appointments and to pick up medication.

Both Mike and Betty had similar explanations as to why they give so much. They were simple.

For Mike, he recalled giving out popcorn and hot chocolate at the Northwood Town Hall, on the night the Christmas tree was put up. A little girl came by twice.

“She said, ‘Can I have some more popcorn and a cup of hot chocolate,’ ” Mike said. “All you have to do is see a hungry child’s hand reaching out and that sets it off for me. The look on her face, she was starving.”

For Betty, her passion to give must be part of her DNA.

“It’s just what I do,” she said. “I like to feed people.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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