On Monday, May 9, Frank Smith of Loxahatchee Groves celebrated a very important milestone with friends, family and phone calls.
Frank, father to two, grandfather to seven and great-grandfather to 16, celebrated his 100th birthday, a milestone reached by only a tiny percentage of people.
“It was my birthday; it was another day,” Frank said. “My granddaughter was over here, her husband and her two sons. Earlier today, I had some other friends here. So, all day long we had visitors.”
Frank had lunch with his visitors as they reminisced about the past.
“As far as I was concerned, it was another day, another birthday. We all got together,” the newly minted centenarian said. “We don’t make a big fuss about things, just go along as it is, day by day, and enjoy or accept whatever’s going on.”
Reaching 100, to Frank, isn’t the accomplishment — his family is.
“I’m 100 years old — that’s it,” Frank said. “I have 16 great-grandchildren.”
Frank and his late wife Lucille married on Feb. 27, 1943, and they celebrated many anniversaries together before she passed away in March 2014. The two left a large and growing legacy. Their late daughter Diana Berezo (1950-2021) and son Ron Smith made sure they had plenty of grandchildren, and consequently, great-grandchildren to dote on.
“We were married for about three weeks, and the U.S. Army sent me over to the Pacific for two and a half years, so I didn’t see my bride for two and a half years,” Frank recalled. “When I came back, we started our family: Ron, my son, and Diana, my daughter. Between those two, as they got married, we developed seven grandchildren.”
Frank and Lucille’s family is their greatest legacy, said Karl Smith, one of Frank’s grandchildren. That family now spans from Florida to North Carolina and Virginia, and from Ohio to Texas.
“The cool thing about him is, he had an eighth-grade education, and then he worked in restaurants basically from the time he was 12 or 13 years old, up until he went to enlist in the military, and he went and fought in World War II,” Karl said. “He was in the air wing.”
Karl added that his grandparents met while Frank was in basic training. Frank was 21 when he enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1942.
“I spent six years in the army,” Frank recalled. “Two and a half years I spent in the Aleutian Islands.”
After the war, the couple lived in Washington, D.C., then North Miami, before coming to Loxahatchee Groves in 1984, where Frank has lived ever since.
“We’re just plain-living people here,” Frank said. “It’s quiet.”
The quiet Loxahatchee Groves life has served Frank and his family well.
“My brother and I were both born and raised out there,” Karl said. “We were in the Town-Crier several times growing up. My grandparents were in there a couple times. When they had their 50th anniversary, the Town-Crier did a little thing on it. They were also in one of the first volunteer groups to open up Palms West Hospital.”
Karl and his brother Klay, who works as a football coach, both played high school and college football. Klay graduated from Royal Palm Beach High School in 1999, in its first graduating class.
Even into his 70s, Frank would go out and throw the football around with them, his grandson recalled. “He liked golf and football,” Karl said.
And Frank always stayed interested, even though as a child he was smaller, and not allowed to play. Frank is 5-foot-8, while most of the family is over 6 feet tall.
“My grandparents traveled up until their late 80s, and they’d travel by car,” Karl said, including going to see Karl and Klay playing college football in Chicago. “They’d sit there and freeze, and watch us play.”
To commemorate Frank’s 100th birthday, Karl wanted to share a story with the community. A story of a small child taking a long train ride.
In 1928, when Frank was just six years old, he took a train from Texas to the northeast to join his father, who was a chef who worked in the hotel industry.
“They put a boy on a train, with three porters, one woman and two men. They were the greatest people I ever met in my life,” he said. “Good people.”
Frank had a ticket attached to him, like luggage, with his name and his final destination. To this day, he still has the train ticket from his multi-day adventure.
“My father said, ‘You become a cook and a chef, and you’ll never have to worry about a job.’ And he was right,” Frank said. “As long as I stayed in the restaurant/hotel business… everything was fine, even up to this day.”
Frank later spent 30 years at Sears Roebuck, starting as a salesperson and retiring as management.
“I take every day as it comes along, no big deal. I have a lot of good friends here, and Florida is a great state. Every state I’ve been to has been great — Pennsylvania, New York, Missouri, Florida. One of my favorites was Texas, of course,” Frank said. “It’s just another day for me.”
Though Frank didn’t ask for a big fuss for his 100th birthday, he received countless birthday cards and “thank you for your service” cards, as well as many phone calls to commemorate the occasion.