Jessie Smith is turning 100 years old.
That milestone birthday — Dec. 12 — was celebrated ahead of time by 140 friends at Cross Point Community Church in Modesto.
She met with seven of those friends from Manteca at Chubby’s Restaurant Monday morning in Manteca. She was obviously thrilled to be in their company as much as they were to be sitting with her over breakfast. Tongue in cheek they were calculating the total years they represented together with many of them being over 80 years old.
Smith has kept healthy by walking Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto three times a week with a group of faithful friends on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Each time they walk four laps inside the mall to keep their stamina at a youthful level. There used to be 20 in the group but that dropped to 10, she added. Smith has also been using exercise weights to keep her arms in shape and limber.
One of her much younger friends at the Chubby’s gathering, Shannon Adams said Smith “walks much faster than I do.”
Remembering her youth, she said her mom and dad used to be in charge of a huge ranch just outside of Sacramento where they used a horse and buggy in 1920s. She had four siblings – all girls except for one older brother. She went to Linden High School noting her family raised cherries. Smith said she had loads of fun climbing the cherry trees and eating more cherries than she picked.
“Someone told me about Alaska” and her older sister told her to go if she was so enthralled with the idea, Smith related
She began working for the Army Air Corps and married her husband Wayne Smith when she turned 34. They flew on her job to different air bases, eventually landing in Alaska where she realized she would probably never be in the Arctic again in her lifetime – “so I went out and washed my hands in the water and noticed a polar bear was watching me.”
Smith’s husband was a master sergeant in the Army. They were sent to Japan and then on to Vietnam. Asked if she could speak Japanese, she rattled off a greeting in Japanese that translates as, “Good morning! How are you?”
In Japan she drove on the “wrong” side of the road.
“I would sing ‘Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road’ when I was driving so I didn’t forget,” she laughed.
As a teen she enjoyed ice and roller skating at Stockton rinks.
“Ballroom dancing with my husband was a natural for us,” she said. “We did every kind of dance there was including the Rumba, the Samba, and of course, the Fox Trot.”
As a teen, Smith had a pony of her own. One say she and noticed from her family’s ranch that a woman and her children across the street at a market were looking at the pony, adding that the kids liked her pony so much that she gave it to them.
God has played an important role in her life. She religiously attends Bible study every Tuesday.
Her husband passed away in 1977 leaving her with two acres of walnut trees. Neighbors said her acreage looked like a park.
She remembered that her husband liked her spaghetti for dinner, “with a pinch of this and a pinch that.”
Up until two years ago, living in Salida, she still drove her car to Modesto and to Manteca to visit with her many friends.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.