Joan Naumovich

Joan Naumovich

Third-generation Lithuanian-American Joan M. Naumovich is Patient Advocate/ Director of Patient Relations at St. John’s Hospital. She began her medical career in high school as a volunteer or “candy striper” before earning her R.N. and then serving many years as a bedside nurse, always at St. John’s.

Joan says she gets a lot of satisfaction from her “healthcare ministry” helping patients navigate an increasingly complex medical system, which often involves a daunting number of specialists and a dizzying array of high-tech tests and treatments.

The third of 10 children born to Leonard and Jean Naumovich, Joan says her grandmother Josephine Deresker Naumovich immigrated from Lithuania in the early 1900s. And, like so many of us, Joan faced surname mutilation by teachers all through school at St. Aloysius, Ursuline Academy, then St. Louis University, where she earned her B.S. in nursing. She laughs: “It is amazing how many ways there are to put the 9 letters in Naumovich together to create a variety of sounds.”

Joan’s two daughters, Katie and Missy Dodd, come from a double-Lithuanian background. Their paternal great-grandmother was Springfield-area Lithuanian Marcella Yuscius. Joan has a fond memory of Grandma Yuscius assessing Katie as an infant in diapers and pronouncing Lithuanian words that sounded like “subikis paklis,” which she translated into English as, “butt like a stove.”

Joan in Lithuanian dress

Did that make you laugh out loud, like it did me? Do any readers recognize that phrase—or can you correct it for us if it’s a bit off? (Sounds like a keeper for some of life’s special occasions.)

It seems only natural, after speaking of butts, to transition to the subject of Lithuanian food. Joan remembers going as a child with her dad to a local grocer to buy the ethnic cheese called suris, sometimes with seeds and sometimes without. She liked the creamy, rich texture and recalls her dad eating only that for his lunch, especially during Lent.

Do any of our readers remember—or eat suris? And, if you eat too much, will somebody mumble in Lithuanian that you have “a butt like cheese?” And, if they did, how would you know? (I must be channeling Joan’s humorist brother Dan here.)

An annual Christmas favorite for Joan’s daughter Missy to this day is kugelis, a grated potato-bacon-onion casserole topped with sour cream that grandmother Dodd makes. Both sides of Joan’s extended Lithuanian family love Kielbasa and serve it as a side dish every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

suris: Lithuanian curd cheese

suris: Lithuanian curd cheese