Dr. Helen Wells Smith
Helen Wells Smith, MD, 93, of Murphy, passed away Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 at Murphy Medical Center. A native and lifetime resident of Murphy, Dr. Wells grew up working alongside her father operating and delivering milk for the Wells Dairy Farm. She graduated Valedictorian from the Murphy High School Class of 1940 at age 16. Dr. Wells received her undergraduate premedical degree from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and then her medical degree from The Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in 1946. Dr. Wells was a lifelong member of Murphy First United Methodist Church.
Dr. Wells was the first woman doctor in Western North Carolina. She faithfully served as a general practitioner and hospital physician for 46 years, delivering more than 3,500 babies in Cherokee County and surrounding counties in North Carolina and north Georgia. During her career, she was a member of the American Academy of General Practice, American Medical Association, North Carolina Medical Association and Cherokee County Medical Society. Her love for the mountain people and her recognition of the need for greater health care resources emboldened her lifelong pursuit of recruiting more physicians and some of the first medical specialists to the area. Dr. Wells’ involvement with the Cherokee County Health Department spanned decades and included holding the position of Chairman/Medical Director. She was instrumental in initiating the Cherokee County Family Planning clinic in 1964, working chronic disease clinics, and providing annual physical examinations for U.S. Forest Service employees.
Upon retirement, Dr. Wells was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina. Murphy Medical Center named their Ambulatory Care Center in her honor and established the Dr. Helen Wells Scholarship Fund as a tribute to her service to the area and for the many people she encouraged and assisted in obtaining health-related degrees. A bridge crossing her family’s former dairy farm on NC Highway 76 carries her name. Professionally, she is remembered fondly for her unfailing integrity, discipline and professionalism in providing high-quality medical care in the Tri-State area.
Dr. Wells saw many patients during her career and yet still found time to be a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. She was most proud of her family: her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, sister, brother, parents and grandparents. She loved playing bridge and was an avid water skier and boating enthusiast- being the first person to ski on Lake Hiawassee on homemade water skis constructed by her husband. Helen had a manner, poise and special gift of hospitality, encouragement, open mindedness and acceptance of all people.
Helen was the daughter of the late Hardy Noland and Mildred King Wells and the wife of the late John Strother Smith, who died May 9, 1998. She was also preceded in death by a sister, Mildred Helton; and a brother, Harold Wells.
Surviving are two sons, Perry Grover Smith and wife, Laura, of Little Rock, Ark., and Noland Wells Smith and wife, Charlene, of Murphy; five grandchildren, Carmen Smith Lance and husband Jack, Bonnie Lee, Sarah Lynn, Morgan Helen and Noland Wells Smith II.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. at the Murphy First United Methodist Church with the Rev. Rob Rollins officiating. The interment will be in Sunset Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Steve, Wayne and Hubert Wells, Jack Lance, Noland Smith II and Edward Reynolds.
The family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25 at the Ivie Funeral Home, Murphy where the body will remain until placed in the church 30 minutes prior to the services.
The family requests memorials be made in memory of Dr. Helen Wells Smith to the Dr. Helen Wells Scholarship Fund, 3990 E. US 64 Alt., Murphy, NC 28906 or the Murphy First United Methodist Church- Harshaw Chapel Restoration, PO Box 86, Murphy, NC 28906.
Ivie Funeral Home, Murphy: www.iviefuneralhomeinc.com is in charge of all arrangements.