Loretta Smith celebrates 100… with a kayak ride

By on September 14, 2016
Loretta Smith isn’t your typical centenarian. She spent Labor Day kayaking at Speedwell Forge. The kayak trip was a birthday gift from Don and Diane Stoltz.

Loretta Smith isn’t your typical centenarian. She spent Labor Day kayaking at Speedwell Forge. The kayak trip was a birthday gift from Don and Diane Stoltz.

Loretta (Schmolke) Smith was the third oldest of 12 children. She was born on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1916, in Buckman, a thriving rural village in Central Minnesota.

During Loretta’s first three years of elementary school, morning classes were conducted in German and afternoon classes were conducted in English. To this day Loretta is bi-lingual, switching comfortably from English to German.

Loretta survived and influenza pandemic in the fall of 1918, and again in the fall of 1923, scarlet fever and rheumatic fever. Several elementary school-age children in Buckman died, including one of Loretta’s classmates. For Loretta, this was a serious childhood illness that resulted in a permanent heart murmur.

Despite the Great Depression and hard times hitting the home, Loretta received help to facilitate admission to the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. Attending college for a woman, much less a woman from rural Minnesota, was a remarkable accomplishment in 1934 in the midst of a worldwide economic depression. While in college, Loretta enjoyed performing in plays. She also directed her first play as a project for student teaching. Loretta graduated in 1938 with an English teaching degree.

She taught at various schools in Little Falls, Minn., and Mandan, N.D. While attending continuing education classes at University of Minnesota in summer of 1942 Loretta waitressed at a restaurant in Minneapolis. It is there that she met her future husband, Paul Smith from New London, Conn. They went their separate ways, but corresponded by letter. Her new assignment was on the Makah Indian Reservation in Neah Bay, Wash.

Like many families, a number of Loretta’s siblings enlisted in the military. In March 1945, her sister, an Army nurse, was killed in a plane crash in India; this shook the family to the core.

In Spring 1945, with World War II drawing to a close, and rattled by the death of her younger sister, Loretta and Paul decided to marry. Loretta finished her teaching contract at Neah Bay in May 1945 and prepared for her trip to Hawaii, where Paul was now working for the government near Pearl Harbor.

They were married Feb. 2, 1946, on Waikiki Beach at St. Augustine’s by the Sea. It is now a large masonry edifice on the Waikiki Boulevard in Honolulu, but in 1946 it was a small open air chapel.

Loretta Smith and her husband, Paul, on their wedding day, Feb. 2, 1946.

Loretta Smith and her husband, Paul, on their wedding day, Feb. 2, 1946.

Two of Paul and Loretta’s children were born in Hawaii; four in Texas, and two in Minnesota. Most of their married life was lived either in Minnesota on, farms or Hawaii They retired from the Federal Government in 1972 and made their final home together Kona, Hawaii.

After Paul’s passing in 1987, Loretta sold their home on the Big Island of Hawaii and relocated to be near her children in Lititz. Loretta took may trips in her earlier years. At 91 she visited her grandson in Germany, where he was stationed. She has continued to make Lititz her home. She is a member of St. James Catholic Church parish and attends weekly mass.

Her 100th birthday was celebrated as a three-day event in her honor. The birthday party itself was held Aug. 13, at St. James social hall, where 200 family and friends united to wish her well. They came from as far away as Korea, Germany, and various states to honor her.

Loretta continues to watercolor all of her greeting cards, inspired to do so by local artist, Andy Smith. Loretta enjoys using her iPad to FaceTime and keep connected with her remaining six siblings, who live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas.

She has been blessed with eight children, 17 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

Loretta’s most recent adventurous outing took place at Speedwell Lake. With the help of friends, she had the pleasure of kayaking for one hour on Labor Day. It was a most peaceful and relaxing experience. Now she is busy writing thank you notes!

Written by Loretta’s daughter, Helen Cookey

Loretta, heading off to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Loretta, heading off to celebrate her 100th birthday.

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