October 12, 2016 Edition

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Thelma Smithee celebrates 104th

Thelma Smithee (seated) celebrated her 104th birthday on Thursday. With her are her daughters (from left): Geraldine Rogers, Sue Fallis and Freda Wall.

Gretchen Hunt

Thelma Smithee celebrated her 104th birthday on Thursday at Lawrence Hall Nursing Center with family and friends, including her three daughters, Sue Fallis of Ratcliff, Freda Wall of St. Augustine, Fla., and Geraldine Rogers of Hoxie.

A farmer's wife and mother of seven, when asked to what she attributed her longevity, she replied "just quiet living is all I know."

Daughter Freda laughed and said, "She had seven children, so her early living was not quiet."

But she and sister, Geraldine, agreed it was simple living.

"Daddy was a farmer and she would work in the fields with him," Geraldine said. "Mom always had a huge garden. We always had fresh vegetables."

The sisters recalled having chickens and pigs they would butcher, as well as cows to provide milk.

"Everything was fresh – very few things were bought at the store," Geraldine said.

In addition to not having many food items with preservatives in them, the girls recalled that there wasn't much time for socializing, and staying out late was not an option.

"Daddy and Momma had a lot of friends, but there were chores to do morning and night," Geraldine said. "We didn't go places, and we were always in bed early because you had to get up early."

The girls recalled their father, Sid Smithee, farming using a team in their younger years and remembered when he got his first tractor. They also recalled long workdays for both their father and their mother.

"Farm life is a hard life, but maybe all that work was good for her," Geraldine said.

In the late 1970s they sold the farm, located south of Minturn, which they had farmed since 1942. Thelma and Sid, who were married in 1933, then moved to Hoxie, where he died in 1982. She continued to live on her own until June of 2013, when she moved to Lawrence Hall at the age of 101.

Thelma never learned to drive, so she was dependent on her children to take her to appointments or shopping, but she was also very independent, insisting on being at her own home as much as possible.

Geraldine recalled a time when her mother had fallen and injured a hip and the doctor had put her on some strong painkillers while she was waiting to receive a shot.

"He asked her if she could go stay with someone," Geraldine said. "I told the doctor that she could stay with me. She stayed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. As soon as she got that shot, she was ready to go home. She always liked to be at home."

In addition to their three daughters, Thelma and Sid had four sons, all of whom have passed away. Garland died as a young child, almost four years old, and Leland died in infancy. Boyce and Cloyce both passed away in the past few years.

Thelma enjoyed good health until the last year and a half or so and good vision until earlier this year. An avid reader, even after she became a resident of Lawrence Hall, she would read 10 books in five or six days, in addition to her Bible reading.

An infection in her eyes in April of this year, which went untreated due to other health problems that were taking precedence at the time, led to cornea damage, and scar tissue limited her vision to the point that she could no longer read.

"Her good eye got better," Geraldine said, "but that put a stop to her reading."

The oldest of seven children, Thelma left school early to help care for younger siblings, but her daughters said that didn't stop her from learning.

"She was a self-educated person," Geraldine said. "She helped get all the kids through school and learned along with them."

Sid and Thelma were members of the Clover Bend Methodist Church until it consolidated with Hoxie Methodist. Thelma continued to attend Hoxie United Methodist until hearing problems prevented her from being able to participate in the services.

Geraldine said the church's pastor, Bro. Garry Wiles, is very good to visit her mom, and always makes a point to be there if she is under the weather or for special occasions like her birthday.

In addition to her daughters, grandchildren and other family members, many from the hall also stopped by to visit and enjoy a piece of cake on Thursday. Freda said her mom's mind is still sharp, and she recognized everyone who came by to celebrate and called them by name.

"She really enjoyed her birthday," Geraldine said. "It was nice to see everyone who stopped by."

Freda said Lawrence Hall has been a wonderful place for her mother to be.

"They have some aides out here who treat her like she's their grandmother," she said. "They have been so kind and helpful."

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