Stars and Stripes parade honorees announced Grand Marshals are Andy and M.J. Smith

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The Smiths have been chosen as Grand Marshals for the Stars and Stripes parade. From left are Andy, Winnie (the family dog) and M.J. Smith. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Dr. Andrew Smith and his wife, M.J., have been chosen as Grand Marshals for the 2022 Stars and Stripes parade set to take place on Saturday, July 2, at 7 p.m. The couple has been living, working and volunteering in Guttenberg since 1983.  

The Smiths met at the University of Iowa when Andrew was a third year medical student. "I was working on my graduate degree in nutrition," remembered M.J. "We met on the bariatric surgery ward." 

Andrew, commonly known as Andy, and M.J. have been married for 42 years and have two children, Fred, and his wife, Kate, and children, Sam and Naomi, and Liz who is recently engaged to T.J Byrde. Andy recently retired after 39 years of service at the Guttenberg Muncipal Hospital & Clinic. M.J. continues to work part-time as Senior Affiliate Advisor at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. 

"We were both drawn to a small town on the Mississippi River that had a hospital," commented M.J. "Luckily in my first profession, as a dietitian, I could work almost anywhere."

"I knew I wanted it to be some kind of rural practice," added Andy. "Dr. Downey was ready to retire and they were looking for someone."

Guttenberg had many of the qualities the young professionals were looking for. "In a medical marriage you have to put the medical person first," she explained. "They have to remain whole and happy in a very demanding position."

"There were not a lot of politics or medical drama at the hospital. And although it was going to be hard work and long physicians' hours, it was simple compared to many other places," Andy noted. 

Dr. Eugene "Mike" Downey, and his wife, Juanita, who have since passed away, and Dr. Robert Merrick, and his wife, Karen were an additional draw to the community. "The main reason we are here is because of the Downeys and the Merricks. We liked them and could visualize a life like theirs," commented M.J.

The beauty of the area drew the Smiths to Guttenberg, but the compatible people sealed the deal. "Physicians can get in competition with one another creating pettiness," Andy pointed out. "It was nice that we had our own little nest of patients and people."

Well-known as one of Guttenberg's top visionaries, advocates and volunteers, M.J. recalled where it all began. "I still remember. I was pregnant with Fred at the time, and the late Toni Schuster invited me to a meeting to build the new public library," she said with a smile. "I could see that for things to get done there had to be a confident vision, with of course thousands of details, but a leader who would take others to a new place. Margaret Mackey and Dorothy Tangeman were also instrumental in that 1984 library project.  They were true visionaries. I was taught how to invite others to be part of something lasting by sharing time, talent and treasure."

Through a tragic life-changing accident, M.J. was awakened to make a difference in the lives of others. "I try to ask myself each day, understanding life is short, 'How can I make everyday count for others? What are my hands and feet going to do today?'" she shared.  

Working in collaboration with others leaders who became close friends, some of M.J.'s more notable projects are the successful consolidation of Guttenberg and Garnavillo schools into Clayton Ridge; the creation of the South Marina and Welcome Center; the new Guttenberg Municipal Swimming Pool, and most recently the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities. M.J. is also immediate past chair of Umbrella Arts, a member of Guttenberg Ingleside Club and St. John's Church, where she is active in Bell Choir and is a Stephen's Minister. 

"I think one thing that sets M.J. apart is her ability to listen to others whose opinions are in opposition to a project," Andy proudly shared. "She listens to their stories and understands their problems. She puts up with a lot of negativity at times, but most often, before she is done talking, she has people convinced to support the project that will bring future good to kids and families and our community."  

Time management has been a key factor in remaining balanced. "I really try to never say, 'I am too busy'," she commented. "I have the luxury of setting my own schedule and priorities. Thus, I have had a lot of help at home for three decades from my good friend Toni Boardman. I have been lucky to be able to make time for work in the community."

"M.J. is very organized," commented Andy. 

"Order is good!" she laughed. 

"Her organizational skills kept the family and household going," he said with admiration. "When the phone rang I had to drop everything and leave. She kept it all together." 

She added, "When you are married to someone who others depend on, a supportive role is very helpful. The patients' needs never end. When someone called in the middle of the night with a sick child, I knew they needed him. I would just pray. That was something I could do." 

In his limited spare time beyond the hospital walls, Andy has served on the County Board of Health; Guttenberg Golf and Country Club board; the recently formed Guttenberg Bicycle Task Force, and has served as St. John's Chairman where he continues to direct the bell choir. 

The Smiths have been on a mission to do whatever they can to make Guttenberg more attractive. "Selfishly I would like to draw more people to Guttenberg. Our hospital and clinic depend on it," said Andy. 

“Behind the scenes, for us to start slowing down and step away from leadership positions, we have to grow our community,” M.J. added. 

The Smiths are honored to be part of this year’s parade. “God bless the people who organize the parade. We are happy to help out in any way we can,” they concluded with a big smile.

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