Local News

Triangle WWII veteran turns 102, shares a century worth of memories

Posted August 27, 2015 4:53 p.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2015 5:15 a.m. EDT

— Jerry Smith was the oldest veteran on the Triangle Flight of Honor back in 2011. The program flew veterans to the nation’s capital for free to see the memorial built in their honor.

On Thursday, the 102-year-old shared more than a century’s worth of memories.

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

Maybe it’s partially luck, partially fate, and partially the fact that Smith goes to the doctor every year for a check-up. The thing that Smith credits most for his longevity, however, is his wife of 48 years.

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

Smith’s eyes 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, ’41, and the First World War,” said Smith.

When the Second World War came, the Jones County native signed up with the Navy Seabees, a construction battalion that built bases and airstrips in the southwest Pacific.

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

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

Smith is among only a few World War II Navy Seabees who are still alive, so every birthday is a gift.

“We just lost two in the last two years,” Smith said.

Smith says he never got sick until he hit the century mark.

“I had pneumonia the year I was 100 and got over that,” Smith said. “My body liked it so well, it got it again the next year.”

Smith keeps busy with his two children, two grandsons, and a great grandson. He also goes dancing with his wife every second and fourth Friday of the month.

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

Smith said that after a big celebration for his 100th birthday, all he wanted this year was a banana split. On Thursday, his family and friends enjoyed a meal at Denny’s where Smith got his banana split.