Family matriarch reaches milestone age

Published 10:01 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

It was a very special Valentine’s Day for Mary L. Smith, a resident of Autumn Care of Suffolk, who turned 100 years old on Wednesday.

Smith was born on Feb. 14, 1918, in Bertie County, N.C. She came to Suffolk around age 15 with her aunts and little else, according to her grandson, Anthony Smith.

She married her late husband Jessie Smith at age 18. Her husband worked for Norfolk Southern Railroad.

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“He was a very hard-working man,” said Smith’s grandson, Joseph Smith.

She worked various jobs, such as a housekeeper at Suffolk’s Elliot Hotel and sorting peanuts at Parker’s Peanuts and Lummis Peanuts. She also worked for the Salvation Army.

She raised five daughters: Mariah Smith, Audrey Wilson and Alberta Smith, as well as Raynor Louis and Louise Smith, both of whom are deceased.

Anthony and Joseph Smith recalled being taken care of by their grandmother, along with their six siblings.

“She was the one we would go to for all our problems, and she would always listen,” Anthony Smith said.

He said she would tell her stories about her childhood before she began to experience Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“She’s been a blessing,” he said.

Beyond her five children, Mary Smith has a grand total of about 32 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren, 30 great-great-grandchildren, and about 10 great-great-great-grandchildren, according to Anthony Smith.

The brothers explained that some of the family’s gatherings in years past took up entire hotel floors. For her 100th birthday, some of her family brought gifts to her room at Autumn Care.

“God has been really good to her,” Mariah Smith said about her mother in a phone interview. “Even though she has Alzheimer’s, she’s still a little spunky.”