What's up with doc whose name is on park plaque

By: Nancy Hagman, Special to the Colfax Record
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Found at ankle level, and easily missed, are a series of plaques at the base of the lampposts along Main Street in historic Colfax. A beautification project for downtown, conducted in the early 1990s, called for Victorian-style lighting along the street. In typical community fashion, a committee devised a plan to raise funds for the posts. An individual, group or business could contribute to “buy” a fixture in honor of a person – or persons – with a plaque for the commemoration. Beginning in the south, at Library Park, a plaque on the reads “F. Lynn Smith, M.D. Beloved doctor from family & friends.” A native of Auburn, born in 1906, Smith grew up in Marysville. He attended Stanford University and received his degree from Northwestern Medical School, Chicago. Shortly after completing his internship at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Smith contracted tuberculosis. Dr. Peers, director of the Colfax School of Tuberculosis – an internationally renowned center – offered Smith treatment and $100 a month to come work at his facility. He accepted and moved his family to Colfax on Feb. 1, 1937, arriving during a snowstorm. That same winter, one of his first calls was a nighttime emergency that required eight hours to get to Emigrant Gap. During the journey, the heavy snow broke his windshield wipers and he had to drive with his head out the window to make his way. Twelve-foot snow banks greeted him on either side of the road at the Gap and the final leg was by foot to reach the house. In 1938, Smith established his private practice out of a house on the south side of Grass Valley Street. According to the Colfax Record, local grocers Walter Viscia and O.E. Williams extended credit to him so he could feed his family until his practice became viable. He had the office on the corner of Grass Valley and Kneeland streets built around 1940. Dr. Kurtis Fox occupies it today. When the Challenger – a Southern Pacific passenger train – crashed south of town near Mt. Howell in 1944, Smith was the first medical person on scene and worked tirelessly to attend the injured, mostly military personnel. Smith continued to show his dedication to the community upon the opening of Colfax High School in 1959. He volunteered his services as doctor to the Falcon football team, providing free pre-season physical examinations and treatment of injuries. He was also present on game days in case he was needed for immediate medical care. A statement from one player’s father – name unknown – sums up Smith’s career of service best: “You brought [my son] into the world and I feel better knowing that you are sitting on the bench with us.” Smith was active in and served as president of the Placer County Medical Society, and was a member of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of General Practice. He suffered a heart attack at the age of 58 and had to curtail his activities. He died in San Francisco on Feb. 18, 1965 and is interred at the Colfax Cemetery. Dr. F. Lynn Smith was inducted into the Colfax High School’s prestigious Hall of Fame in 2008.