Francis Lourdes Smalley, 53, died of organ failure on Jan. 7 at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, surrounded by her loved ones. Dr. Patrick Smalley said he plans to have a local memorial service sometime in the next few weeks at the Port Chilkoot Bible Church for his wife and dental manager.
She was born Francis Lourdes Garcia in Santiago in the Dominican Republic on March 9, 1958. “She had two birthdays,” her husband said. “There was some confusion about her actual birthday and the day it was recorded on the birth certificate, which was March 14.” Her father Rafael Garcia was a physician. When Francis was 17 she was in a car accident that killed her mother, Nurys Virginia Blanco. Francis raised her younger siblings Rafael and Jeanette (an older sister Alba had already left home) but continued her education in Santo Domingo and graduated from law school. Dr. Smalley said she was a licensed attorney in the Dominican Republic.
She met her first husband on a trip to the United States. He was in the military and they were stationed in Anchorage when they divorced. She became a dental hygienist and met dentist Patrick Smalley while working with him. They moved to Haines in 2000 to take over the Main Street dental office and were married by the magistrate here on Sept. 22, 2000 and had a family wedding in the Dominican Republic.
“Francis was very elegant in her dress and appearance, and she was a very busy woman. She did not sit around a whole lot; she was always doing something,” Dr. Smalley said. She spent most of her time at the office or with her children. “Although she did read a lot in both Spanish and English, predominately religious themed,” he said.
Daughter Amanda Smalley said her mother was selfless, especially when it came to her and her brother. Smalley sent her daughter to college in Anchorage with the family’s new car, and kept the small, older sedan her daughter had been using for herself. “If she was sick, and Ryan or I were sick, she’d just get over it and take care of us,” Amanda said.
Smalley attended the Port Chilkoot Bible Church as well as the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Retired Bible Church Pastor Gary Lidholm said he’ll miss her, and that Smalley was “a spiritual seeker,” who found comfort in her faith.
Bernadette Maust met Smalley when they worked together at the dental office. She said she was generous, offering on occasion to do check-ups and cleanings for half-off for uninsured people, and that she bought quality toys for the waiting room, only to give them away to little children. “She held patients’ hands when they were afraid. She even held my hand when I had a root canal,” Maust said. “The customers adored her.”
Regular patient Don Poling, Ph.D., said, “I’m going to miss her because she was the only person in Haines who actually addressed me as Dr. Poling. She was from the old school of showing respect for academia, and there’s not too many of those left.”
Friends and family say Smalley suffered from chronic pain since her teenage accident and several other surgeries, but rarely let it show. “She laughed a lot and was so spontaneous,” Maust said. She said Smalley often took spur-of-the-moment adventures. On a two-car road trip to Whitehorse, Smalley, who had her share of fender benders locally, drove ahead so fast that she lost Maust, who only caught up after Smalley blew a tire. “She was an excitable person, a very high energy kind of person, but in a way that made you feel she could handle the world. At the same time, she couldn’t always. She was quite a lady, quite a mom to her children. In her book they were number one. She gave them everything.”
Francis Smalley is survived by her children, Ryan and Amanda Smalley, and husband Patrick Smalley of Haines, brother Rafael Garcia of Anchorage, two sisters, Alba and Jeanette in the Dominican Republic, and a large extended family.