SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — Longtime Spa City resident Elizabeth “Bet” Smith celebrated her 106th birthday on Sunday, marking the start of a new year for the beloved centenarian.
Born on June 26, 1916, Smith has been through a lot in her 106 years and she still finds ways to have fun.
As part of his birthday festivities, his family takes him to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, a new digital art exhibit at Schenectady.
Smith, who studied fine art at Syracuse University, creates art herself, though she is extremely modest about her talents. Staff and other residents of Woodlawn Commons, a retirement community within the Wesley community, appreciate Smith’s artwork when displayed.
More recently, Smith has been spending time drawing with colored pencils. “I’m constantly busy,” she said, sharing that she also participates in music and exercise programs at Woodlawn Commons.
While keeping busy is likely a factor in Smith’s longevity, it also runs through his family. She has two younger sisters who are also over 100, one who lives nearby in the Wesley community and another in Glens Falls.
Smith, along with her siblings, spent her early years in Syracuse. Then she moved quite a bit with her husband Walter Snowdon Smith III, to whom she was married for more than 60 years. Smith speaks highly of her late spouse, who served in World War II and was one of the first Americans injured in the attack on Pearl Harbor, losing a leg.
“He was just outstanding,” she said, talking about how her husband continued with all sorts of activities as an amputee. “It made no difference in his life.”
In recent months, Smith has also had a leg amputated and her husband’s experience has given her confidence. “It really played a big role in making the decision easy for me,” she said.
After raising their three children, the Smiths moved to Cape Cod, where they became entrepreneurs. Together they operated a shop called The Wildfowlers, selling art and antiques. “We had this store for 15 years and loved it,” Smith recalls. “We had a ball.”
In the 1980s, the couple moved to Saratoga Springs to be closer to their family, which now has five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. “Now it’s home,” Smith said. “I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere.”
Smith recently moved to Woodlawn Commons and reports she loves it so far.
Likewise, the Wesley community is delighted to have Smith among the residents of Woodlawn Commons. “Bet has a terrific spirit,” said J. Brian Nealon, CEO of The Wesley Community, and certainly has fantastic genes.”
On Friday, Woodlawn Commons hosted a birthday party for Smith. “It’s always a privilege to be able to honor our residents who have passed the century mark,” said Nealon, sharing that Smith is the oldest resident of Woodlawn Commons and one of the oldest in the entire Wesley community.
He added: “She is a very special woman.”