JOEL BERNARD SMASON, M.D., a retired orthopedic surgeon and Chief of Orthopedics at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles, died at his residence with family members at his side on Thursday evening, March 14, 2019, following a prolonged illness. He was 84.
Dr. Smason was a native of New Orleans and graduated from Alcee Fortier Senior High School, where he was a noted clarinet player. He advanced to Louisiana State University and then on to the LSU School of Medicine, where he was at the top of his class. He entered the United States Air Force as a Captain and was stationed in Japan while serving in the medical corps. Following his return to New Orleans, he was associated with Charity Hospital.
In 1961 he married the love of his life, Evelyne, a Newcomb College graduate, who hailed from Augusta, GA.
The Smasons began raising their family in the Crescent City, but Dr. Smason accepted a partnership in an orthopedic practice in Monroe, LA. and they stayed there for several years. However, the toll of raising a Jewish family in Monroe became too high and a decision was made to move the family to the more Jewish-friendly Los Angeles area. The Smasons eventually settled in the Westwood suburb of Los Angeles, where they maintained a residence for more than four decades.
Dr. Smason’s second son, Brian David Smason, died when he was just 7 years old, a tragedy that impacted the entire family. As a result of the loss of his son, Smason became more entrenched in his practice of Judaism and was befriended by a number of the members of the Los Angeles Chabad community.
After more than 51 years of marriage, Dr. Smason was also predeceased by his wife in 2012.
Retired from practice for more than a decade, Dr. Smason would occasionally travel around the country, accompanied by family members. He returned to New Orleans to retrace his former homes and to visit family resting places in Gentilly. He journeyed to Israel with a fellow widower friend a little over two years ago. He took up the playing of clarinet again in recent years and frequently played with the Santa Monica College Emeritus Band, a community band.
He is survived by his son Ivan Smason, his daughters Renée (Stephen) Gingold and Sharon (Rabbi David) McLashley and three grandchildren.
A memorial service was held on Sun., March 17, in Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Although he spent much of his time at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, Dr. Smason’s service was jointly conducted by clergy from Chabad of Simcha Monica (Orthodox), Sinai Temple (Conservative) and University Synagogue (Reform).
(Dr. Smason was the uncle of CCJN editor Alan Smason and former advertising director Arlene S. Wieder.)