Local News

Triangle veteran celebrates 102nd birthday

Posted August 28, 2015 12:10 a.m. EDT

World War II veteran Jerry Smith, the oldest veteran on the Triangle Fleet of Honor, turned 102-years-old Thursday.

“I’m lucky,” Smith said. “Can you say it any better than that?”

Smith credits his longevity to his wife of 48 years, Betty.

“She’s the reason I stay so young,” he said. “I say the Lord’s been good to me.”

Smith can no longer see, but his mind is as sharp as ever.

“I can remember from 1918, when the flu epidemic was in this country, and the first World War,” Smith said.

At 29, the Jones County native signed up with the Navy Seabees, a construction battalion that built bases and airstrips in the southwest Pacific.

What started out as a nine-month stint, turned into 23 months.

“I was shanghaied into CBS, but I was so glad after I got in them and I was there,” Smith said. “They were a nice unit.”

Smith is among only a few World War II Navy Seabees still alive. He said two former Seabees died in the past two years.

The 102-year-old said he never got sick until he hit the century mark.

“I had pneumonia the year I was 100,” he said. “My body liked it so much that I got it again the next year.”

With two children, two grandsons and a great grandson, Smith keeps busy visiting with him family.

Smith still goes dancing with his wife every second and fourth Friday of each month.

“I’ve had a good live,” Smith said. “I compare myself to Jimmy Stewart in ‘A Wonderful Life.’ I got him beat.”