First Lady | Shriners International
First Lady Alice Smith grew up on a dairy farm near Kilkenny, Minnesota, a tiny town of 200 residents. Her paternal great-grandparents emigrated to this sister city of Kilkenny, Ireland, from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland.
As the oldest of five children (two girls, three boys), Alice was the “chore boy,” until one of her brothers was old enough to handle some of the work. Her responsibilities included milking 20 to 50 cows, twice a day. Alice was close to her dad, and enjoyed working outdoors, alongside him. She especially remembers the few times when the weather was nice and they would work in the fields with a wagon and horses, instead of a tractor. Alice spent her summers raking hay, cultivating corn, helping her mom in the garden, attending county fairs as a 4-H member, packing a picnic lunch and taking a Sunday ride to “check out the crops” in other parts of southern Minnesota. Sometimes the picnic happened to be in a park alongside one of the 10,000 Minnesota lakes where everyone cooled off with a swim. The family was loving, strict, devoutly Catholic and conservative.
Alice was the first in her family to attend college. She became a teacher of junior and senior high school home economics – especially various aspects of foods – for five years. She was responsible for getting the needed groceries and bringing them to class, which was a very time consuming task.
During her second year of teaching, Alice shared a classroom with Mary Lou Jones. She met her future husband as a blind date at a dinner party at Mary Lou and Bob Jones’ apartment. Alice and Jim were married 10 months later; the Smiths and Joneses remain friends to this day. After they were married, Alice continued teaching until she became pregnant with their first child, daughter Abigail.
As Jim’s career progressed, the family moved quite often, primarily in the Midwest, but also to the Northeast, which limited Alice’s teaching options. However, she enjoyed the opportunities to travel a bit, which she never had as a child. “It was something I wished for, and it came true,” she said.
Her two children, Abigail and Jason, are grown now and live with their families in Chicago, Illinois, and Natchitoches, Louisiana, respectively. Abby and her husband, Greg, own an architectural firm that specializes in high-end residential design and remodeling; Jason is a plant manager for a large wood and timber products company and his wife, Elisa, is a math and science teacher. “They are all very accomplished and we can’t help but be proud of everyone,” Alice said. Abby and Greg are raising two children, Josie and Lincoln, both teenagers. Jason and Elisa are parents of Lyn, a recent college graduate, Grace, and Jacob, who are fast becoming teens. Alice is hoping to have a big family vacation once this Imperial year is over and bring everyone together.
Alice has been at Jim’s side throughout his Shriners leadership journey, beginning at the temple level. She said she shared her concerns about him running for an Imperial board position in a prayer to Our Creator. Then, after a short time, she said it became clear, with Jim’s success, that this endeavor is something God wanted for them, as well.
Being part of the Shriners organization has also given Alice a way to meet many nobles and ladies who have become friends, and a way to help children, an opportunity for which she is extremely grateful. She and Jim look at this time in their lives as a way to give back for all the many blessings they have received. Jim has a nephew who was treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children® — Chicago from the age of 2 until he turned 21, receiving treatment and prosthetics. Coincidentally, Jim served as the Board liaison for the Chicago hospital for seven years.
Alice is looking forward to helping the patients of Shriners Hospitals become as independent and confident as possible in whatever they choose to do in their lifetimes. Her program, Rising Stars, will support these efforts, especially by helping to ensure the availability of assistive devices and programs, which can create new possibilities and opportunities not previously available to these children. In addition to caring for the medical needs of our patients' specific conditions, Shriners Hospitals for Children provides what we call “wrap-around care.” This effort includes programs and initiatives that help build confidence and self-esteem. Assistive devices and adaptive programs help these children discover all they are capable of, allowing them to believe in their dreams and, many times, to fulfil them. They then can go on to take their places in society with grace and strength.
“I am honored to support this endeavor,” said Alice.