The Heart and Soul of SMA Tavarua- Paula and Ward Smith

The members of the Surfers Medical Association celebrate the life of Ward Smith and carry the Smith family in our hearts.
A remembrance shared by SMA Kahuna, Thomas Holthus.
Paula and Ward Smith have created a legacy for SMA in their work and love of Tavarua Nabila Momi.
I first met Paula via snail mail and phone calls for my first SMA Tavarua conference in March 1992 after my time in Desert Storm. She was the coordinator chasing us cats, herding us in to getting organized. If it weren’t for Paula all those years of getting medications & supplies into Fiji it would not have happened. In the early years she’d be anxiously waiting at the airport to divide up the stash into our luggage. And then she’d be as determined to get help dividing them up for the village clinics the day before our village visits.
Before the current handing off to Brian Sturgill the reins of conference coordinator Paula was the one where ‘the buck stops here.’ Us various conference leaders have come and gone, handling some nuances but it is Paula that kept our annual trips all glued together- the institutional memory, our backbone.
She is so loved by the Fijians and Management. Smiles abound when they meet Paula as we come into their presence be it on Tavarua or our Nabila or Momi visit. You can feel the Warmth of Love radiating out from Paula and the Fijians. I think if Paula would have her way she’d spend most of her week in the village, as it was difficult pulling her away at the end of the day’s visit.
The Tavarua scholarship program would not have been successful with Paula. She had to manage the funds, to determine who to appropriate monies to, and tonfollow along their progress. After dinner on final day she would update us on the successes of the students so that we’d be inclined to continue our financial support.
While Paula was in the village, Ward was out either doing civil works or later in the Nabila school. Since I remained in the village clinic I wasn’t privileged when he & others hiked up the mountain to fix the village water dam, in the days before piped in water. Nor was I able to see the joy of the school headmaster or children as they received books or computers or school supplies. Ward as a Santa Cruz teacher and administrator was in his element.
And that’s how he was in the surf- in his element. From our early days it seemed that he liked sitting up at Cloudbreak point, away from the crowd. And he would catch the longest rides in to the end of reef. At Restaurants, especially before the Decree, when we all took our numbers in the lineup, we’d have our best group times. There too Ward would get the longest waves rode in such a delicate style. But then there was the time when he paddled back saying ‘I think I am having a stroke.’ (Ward did well and back soon surfing)
We always enjoyed those rare days at Tavy Rights. And Swimming Pools. Ward was always the Beaming Light/Smile that encouraged others into the waves. One of my fondest memory is Ward taking my teenage son out to surf Tavy Rights.
And on land he continued being that Bright Beaming Light, a Sunshine Smile. Such Happiness.
We always ended our stay with a treat that he and my younger son Alex started as a sneaky treat- eating Magnum ice cream bars.
Through the decades they have seen many of us come and go, while they remained the foundation of the Surfers Medical Association mission- the Heart and Soul in Tavarua.


Thanks for Listening

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