Hitting the Century mark with spunk

By Nick Blank
Posted 11/7/18

MIDDLEBURG – On Nov. 2, 1918, World War I was coming to an end, the sinking of the H.M.S Titanic was six years old and the radio wasn’t widely in use.

Middleburg resident Audrey Smith, who …

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Hitting the Century mark with spunk

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – On Nov. 2, 1918, World War I was coming to an end, the sinking of the H.M.S Titanic was six years old and the radio wasn’t widely in use.

Middleburg resident Audrey Smith, who turned 100 last Friday, relayed insights from a century worth of experiences as four generations of her family held a party for the occasion.

Smith was born in Providence, Rhode Island, less than three months after South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. Smith lived in the same 16-room tenement house for 75 years. She laughs and mentions how she was born on the top floor and moved to the middle floor when she married in 1941.

Providence experienced vast changes from 1918 to the modern-era. Smith recalled taking trolley cars to school, which would end around 5:30 p.m. When she talks in her thick New England accent, her family listens.

“We had no school buses, but for four cents we could get a ticket to ride. At least you could get around without having an automobile,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t be able to find my way around (in Providence now). They’ve moved rivers out of the way (in the 1980s) to change the lay of the land. They moved the train tracks out of the way.”

Smith recalled the war effort – war rations, victory gardens and all – and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s infamous speech when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Her family didn’t have a TV until the mid-1950s.

“It was a little bit of a thing,” Smith said.

She moved to Clay County in 1997 near her son, to find care for her husband, Herbert, who had a stroke. Herbert worked for the city of Providence for 32 years as a traffic engineer. He died in 1997.

Besides managing a cat and three parakeets, she frequents the Middleburg Senior Center and is known for her dutiful volunteering at Middleburg United Methodist Church.

Smith worked in several jewelry stores and retired from a tool and die company in Providence in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Bonnie Craven, who lives in Colorado, said Smith used to avidly sew square dancing and wedding dresses.

“(Audrey) made all my clothes and birthday cakes,” Craven said. “She still balances a checkbook to the penny.”

Patti Evans, Smith’s caregiver of 4 years, said it was amazing all that Smith had seen and done.

“Her determination to get to 100 is unreal,” Evans said.

Smith’s neighbor Nancy Long said she talks to Smith 45 minutes every day. Long touted Smith’s work with the church dinners and food programs.

“She’s so strong,” Long said. “She never complains and is so sharp.”

Her son Gerald presented her with a card the size of a table.

“It’s the biggest birthday you’ve had,” he said.

In Smith’s room are dressers and bureaus from 1912. She said she can track her family back to Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Rhode Island.

As for hitting the century mark, Smith said the secret was staying physically fit, which she credits to more than 30 years of square dancing.

“Keep active and just be happy with what you do as long as you’re keeping busy and don’t get into trouble,” Smith said. “Having a lot of friends around you can go a long way.”

Smith was in a traveling square dance group that went as far as Canada and Washington D.C. where it rented out gyms to dance in.

“That’s what kept us going. We’d have large crowds,” she said. “In Washington D.C., you could be dancing with some big diplomat and not even know it.”

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