Long Beach resident celebrates 105 years with wisdom and humor
By Lindy Sholes
When Long Beach resident Luanne Smith had a heart attack at the age of 63, her doctor didn’t expect her to survive much longer because she refused to undergo heart surgery, what was then a new concept. She has outlived several of her doctors, though. In fact, she celebrated her 105th birthday on June 19 in typical pandemic fashion. A line of around forty-five decorated cars and smiling friends, family, her current doctor and Mayor George Bass, paraded past her house where she waved and blew kisses.
She offered some words of wisdom that she has gained from her longevity: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, and love people as Jesus loves people. She practices this, as she yelled, “I love you!” to every car that drove past.
Originally from Clarke County, Smith was a Gulfport resident since 1950, working at Brumfield Department Store for twenty years. Hurricane Katrina flooded her home and forced her to move in with her daughter in Long Beach. It wasn’t a move Smith would have chosen, she said, as she has always considered herself to be quite independent.
Smith said some of her fondest and most impactful memories come from her childhood.
Her biggest influence in life was her grandmother, an Irish immigrant who was orphaned at a young age after a cholera epidemic and raised by her aunt.
“My grandmother would say not to slump my shoulders and to walk like a lady,” Smith said. “I still think of the things that she taught me. I miss her.”
During the Great Depression, her grandmother taught her to be kind and generous with people, as she would trade butter and eggs for sugar and flour. Smith was around fourteen years old when the stock market crashed.
“My dad lost his job as a lumber man,” she said. “I remember seeing him come up the lane and he went straight into the house, fell across the bed, and that was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry.”
But they never went hungry. She said people came together and helped each other during a time of need. Her family grew their own food, planting extra to give to the neighbors. Smith said when push comes to shove, she believes that people would do the same thing today.
“I have met some lovely people in Long Beach since I’ve been here: and when it comes down to the nitty gritty, I think the community would stick together and help each other out in a crisis,” she said.
For someone with 105 years of age, Smith said she feels okay physically, though busy days, like her birthday, wear her out quicker than they used to. She joked that if she lives to see 106, she will take her money from the bank and find a “hidey-hole.”
She shattered her femur at age 98, and because of her age she was not a candidate for surgery. She has since been bound to a wheelchair, and macular degeneration keeps her from reading and crocheting, some of her favorite pastimes. Smith makes the best of her situation, though, and said she thrives under the care of her family and hospice helpers.
“I told them if they thought I was going to go to sleep just to please them, they were nuts,” she laughed. “I’m not going anywhere ‘til the good Lord says to come home.”
She said she wasn’t ever really into television, but she enjoys the Steve Harvey show because, “He’s honest and clean, and he tells it like it is.”
She tells it like it is, too.
“I told my grandson if I were a little younger, I’d make Steve Harvey his grandpa,” she said with a laugh.
She also loves listening to Frank Sinatra.
“I don’t like this bee-bop stuff today,” she said.
She said she tries to steer clear of the internet and encourages people to pray more. And when it comes to the state of the world, she’d rather not get into that.
“My answer requires a lot of diplomacy that I can’t muster up right now,” she said.