Surviving Spouse Corner: Reflections of a Surviving Spouse Liaison

Surviving Spouse Corner: Reflections of a Surviving Spouse Liaison
MOAA Surviving Spouse Advisory Council First Vice Chair Barbara Smith, center, poses with then-MOAA Board Chairman Adm. Walter Doran, USN (Ret), left, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) during a 2019 office visit in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Stephen Barrett/MOAA)

Serving for the past six years as my chapter’s surviving spouse liaison has been a learning experience. When I first started in the role, I discovered there wasn’t any information or description for this undertaking. The chapter had over 60 surviving spouses (then called auxiliary members), but we didn’t have a separate list of them. That became my first job. I wrote a letter introducing myself and letting them know I was available for any assistance they might need. I also shared what I hoped to accomplish in the coming year (which at that time wasn’t much). 

 

In 2016, I was honored to receive national MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award. At the ceremony, I met the most fascinating group of ladies, the Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee (now Council). One of the members, Pat Farnsworth, became my mentor. She has always been available to me and has given me the confidence I needed to do this job.

 

Over the years, I have tried to include surviving spouses in the chapter’s monthly meetings. Every May, we have a surviving spouse/spouse appreciation luncheon at our regular chapter meeting with a program designed for them. I didn’t feel that was enough, so now we have a quarterly luncheon for surviving spouses/spouses with emphasis on issues and problems that are of interest to them.

 

At the end of the year, I send out a letter sharing what we have accomplished concerning surviving spouse issues and share what MOAA has on their legislative agenda for us. I try to attend all funerals to let spouses know I’m here for them.

 

[RELATED: More Council and Chapter News and Information From MOAA]

 

Four years after being appointed to this position, I was elected to the chapter board. This allows me to vote, which I believe is a very important step forward.

 

I was honored in 2018 to become a member of national MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Advisory Council. This has been an incredible experience. I have learned so much, which I have shared with my local chapter. I have also joined the MOAA Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter, which is open to all surviving spouses and surviving spouse liaisons.

 

It has been my privilege to fill this position. I have met some inspiring women, shared some wonderful stories, and made memories and some dear friends.

 

I am beginning my seventh and final year as surviving spouse liaison. It is my hope that someone will step forward and bring a new look and fresh ideas to our chapter.

 

Read past Surviving Spouse Corners.

 

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About the Author

Barbara Smith
Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith is first vice chair of MOAA's Surviving Spouse Advisory Council.