Albion natives honored for life-saving actions for general who had heart attack in DC

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 May 2024 at 8:38 am

Joyce and Tim LaLonde, Joyce’s husband Nate Birnbaum provided critical responses for Marine Corps commandant

Photo courtesy of Steve LaLonde: During a ceremony at the Marine Barracks Washington on Thursday, Gen. Eric M. Smith presented Navy Distinguished Public Service Award to, from left: Joyce LaLonde, Timothy LaLonde and Nathaniel Birnbaum. The trio provided critical aid to the general after he collapsed from a heart attack on Oct. 29 while out for a jog.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The top general for the U.S. Marine Corps on Thursday honored a brother and sister from Albion, and her husband with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award after they saved his life on Oct. 29.

Gen. Eric M. Smith was out for a 3-mile run on Oct. 29 when he collapsed after having a heart attack. He was face down on the sidewalk and unresponsive with blood coming from his mouth.

Joyce LaLonde, 28, ran the Marine Corps Marathon that day and her brother Tim LaLonde, 33, did the even longer 50K ultra marathon. They went out for a late lunch with other family members and were walking back to Joyce’s nearby home that afternoon close to 5 p.m., according to an article today in The Washington Post.

Joyce was the first to see the general and she shouted for help. Joyce and Nate were the first by the general’s side, with Tim and Steve LaLonde soon to follow. Steve is Tim and Joyce’s father and he lives in Albion. Tim lives in Seattle and works in environmental health and safety. Joyce and Nate live in DC. She works in international affairs and Nate is a legislative assistant in the Senate.

Together, the family of four were all able to get the general on his side and determined CPR was necessary.

Tim, who is certified in CPR, would provide CPR to the general for nine minutes. His sister called 911 twice to get help for General Smith. The first call went to an automated system but she persisted and called again. Joyce’s husband, Nate Birnbaum, ran to a police station get aid for Smith.

The story of their life-saving actions has been out of the spotlight until today. The Washington Post has a big story about the general’s heart attack, the critical care provided by strangers, his recovery and return to work in less than four months. Click here to see “On a D.C. sidewalk, a race to save a Marine general’s life.”

Joyce, Tim and Nate also will join the general for a featured segment on The Today Show this morning. Click here to see it.

They were honored in a ceremony at the barracks on Thursday, and today will be recognized with the first responders during an “Evening Parade” event at the barracks featuring marching and music, according to The Washington Post article.

“You have really given me a second chance,” the general on Thursday, pinning the medal, with its blue and yellow ribbon, to their chests. “I’m grateful to you.”

The Marine Corps general, age 58, is married with two children.

Tim LaLonde is quoted in the Washington Post saying his training in CPR made a difference in helping the general survive the heart attack.

“I’m just really proud of everyone in my family for how they responded,” he said. “There was a lot of luck that came in that day.”

The general and his wife wanted to honor the trio for their quick actions on Oct. 29 and also highlight the value of CPR training, the Washington Post reported.

“If Mr. LaLonde had not been a CPR-certified instructor, I would not be standing here today,” General Smith said.

This photo shared on The Today Show shows Joyce LaLonde with her marathon finisher’s medal and Tim LaLonde with his medal for finishing the ultra marathon. Not long after finishing the race, they were instrumental in saving the life of the top-ranked Marine in the country.