Randolph native turns 100
For more than 100 years, Audrey Gertrude Smith watched the installation of electricity in her family’s farmhouse in Randolphas well as the introduction of indoor plumbing.
At one point, his house burned down, forcing Smith and his family to live in a garage for years while they rebuilt their home.
She sewed, baked, cooked, crocheted, raised bees and raised a family, whose members very obviously love and cherish her.
“She’s seen a lot of changes,” her oldest daughter Dorothy Smith Wise said.
On Sunday, Smith celebrates his 100th birthday.
In honor of the occasion, her family traveled from corners of the country both near and far to be with her on the Randolph family farm, a farm that was recognized by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown in 2012 as a century-old farm. It’s been in the family for over 100 years.
Smith still calls the farm home, but now spends much of her time with her daughter in Arizona.
A few days before the celebration, which brings nearly 100 guests from five generations to the farm, Smith sat in a recliner in the living room, a pearl necklace around her neck. Wise said his mother always wore them.
At hand is a book of Sudoku puzzles, something Smith does to keep his mind sharp.
However, a century of life is a long time. Smith’s memory isn’t what it used to be. Fortunately, his daughter and granddaughter, Lisa Baker, were there to share some of their fond memories, filling in the gaps.
Growing up in Portage County
Wise grew up on the farm with his mother and three brothers, Walter, Harry and Charles. When asked what she remembers about her mother from childhood, her immediate response is about the work her mother did on the farm. “She baked her own bread – she ground the wheat to bake the bread,” Wise said.
Somewhere in the old house is a box full of ribbons (nearly 100 of them, according to Baker) that Smith has won over the years for her breads and preserves that she submitted for judgment at the county fair. by Randolph.
They also kept bees, using honey as a substitute for something Wise said was never in the house: sugar. “My whole family worked together to extract the honey,” she said.
Smith also maintained a vegetable garden, canning for future use what they did not immediately eat. Potatoes and green beans were in abundance.
In 1961, the house burned down, decimating the family’s grocery stores.
“We had over 100 gallons of burnt honey,” Wise said, “We had – Mom said – probably about 365 or 360 canned vegetables, and the potato bin in the basement was totally full. We lost all this when the house burned down.”
While it was certainly a demoralizing experience, the fire did not drive the family off the ground or seem to dim their spirits too much. The family rebuilt their home while living on the property in a stone garage.
“We lived there for five years before we could finally move into this house,” Wise said. “The walls were curtains.”
“Strong and determined people”
This tenacity in the face of hardship is part of how Baker describes her family in general: “strong, determined people.” Baker’s cousin, Anna Marie Smith, points out that Grandma Smith only stopped mowing her own lawn about seven years ago, further underscoring the stream of perseverance that runs through their blood.
Some people might call that kind of dogged attitude stubbornness, Baker said, but she prefers to call it determination when she sees it in herself. Openness to new experiences is another part of her own personality that she recognizes in her grandmother.
Baker remembers going out to the farm and playing, exploring the property, milking the cows, and playing the grand rosewood parlor grand piano, now unplayable due to age, lid closed, covered with pictures of the family. She remembers her grandmother teaching her how to garden.
“It was the best,” Baker said. “I just wish we could spend more time here…great memories here, so much fun.” She even associates the smell of cinnamon toast with her grandmother.
She is thrilled to be back on the eve of her grandmother’s centenary celebration. It will be the first time everyone has come together since Smith’s 90th birthday, she said.
“I mean I can’t believe we made it, but knowing Grandma, I can absolutely believe it because a long time ago she said, ‘I’m going to be 100,'” Baker said.
Baker said the mother and grandmother look a lot alike. The first example she evokes is the artistic side of her grandmother. It also evokes conviviality.
“Grandma did church flower arranging for I don’t even know how long,” Baker said. The flowers came from a flower garden she kept next to the vegetable patch.
Baker said she and her mother were arranging flowers.
“One Saturday,” Wise said, speaking of his mother, “when she was bringing the flowers to church, she needed more flowers. Guess what was growing along the road? cut, and has them its flowers.”
Generosity and willingness to serve others is something both mother and daughter recognize in themselves as something that comes from Smith.
Wise said his parents were still doing repair work for one of his aunts whose husband was not so handy.
Both Wise and Baker donate their time to church, which Smith also did.
A love of cooking, baking, sewing and quilting are other things Baker sees in all three generations.
Growing up on a farm requires clever problem-solving, Baker said, and this new approach to difficulty is something she brings to bear in her own life.
“Something that I see in my mom that is absolutely amazing is – and she got that maybe from her mom but also probably her dad too – figuring out how to make things easier,” Baker said.
A celebration of 100 years in the making
Smith’s daughter explains their plans for the big day. First, she says, they will go to mass at St. Peters.
“And then at 12:30 or so, my daughter and my niece coming in and having an August festival,” Wise said.
It’s more or less Oktoberfest, but in August. Baker and her husband, Tim, have been hosting an Oktoberfest celebration at their home in California for some time, and they’ve perfected the art of serving large groups of people.
Smith said she can’t wait to see her family on Sunday and celebrate her milestone birthday.
What is his secret to longevity?
“Eat honey for a long life.”
Contact journalist Derek Kreider at DKreider@gannett.com