Retired rancher celebrates 90 years
Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 26, 2012 at 12:26 a.m.
Updated May 28, 2012 at 12:28 a.m.
In a wooden rocking chair in Guy Lynwood Smith's living room, an 89-year-old reflection peers back through the window.
Smith has peered through the living room window many times - looking out from the home he designed and built himself 40 years ago.
"I bought this place when it was solid brush," Smith said of the 31-acre property he purchased for $16,000 in the 1950s. "If I'd it bought a few years earlier, I would have able to buy 12 more acres for the same price."
Hunched over on a cane, an aged Smith peers out the window at his vast green pasture. A white, speckled horse roams the property and stops to nibble from a lowered tree branch.
"That's my grandson building that fence," Smith said, proudly pointing at his grandson, Jason Howard, building a new fence enclosure about 20 feet away. "We're trying to get it up before the party."
On Sunday, about 100 friends and family, are joining Smith at his ranch home to celebrate his 90th birthday. And Smith wants to make sure the house is presentable for guests.
Smith's daughter, Sue Howard, who now lives with her father full time, said he's always been the family caretaker - the one who looked out for everyone else.
To that end, she decided to throw her father a 90th birthday party to show her appreciation and celebrate his life and devotion to family.
"I'm buying a cake for 150 people and we'll have plenty of hors d'oeuvres," Howard said. "We're expecting at least 100 people."
Though she's never thrown her father an over-the-top birthday soiree before, Howard said her father is in good health, and 90 was a notable anniversary.
"There are people coming from all over for this," Howard said. "He's always been there for my sons and my mother, which is what prompted me to stay here."
Smith, who met his wife Evelyn Smith at 19 years old and married her a year later - before entering World War II for three years - remained devoted to his wife for 65 years, spending about 30 of those years caring for her through terminal melanoma cancer.
"He loved her for all the right reasons. And she loved him for all the right reasons," Smith's niece, Eileen Bailey said, mentioning Evelyn's passing about five years ago. "He's just a good man. He one of a dying breed."
Smith said his wife helped open the Northside Baptist Church school, then taught at the school for more than 20 years.
"She really enjoyed teaching, but it was hard for her in the later years," Smith said.
Smith said he is the only living charter member of Northside Baptist Church, where he has continuously served and attended since the 1950s.
Reflecting on his nine decades of life while peering through the window, Smith said he's enjoyed his years in South Texas.
"I've had a good life here. I never left. I never felt like I wanted to," he said.
The retired DuPont maintenance mechanic - who grew up on a cotton farm in Seadrift in a time before tractors - learned early the value of hard work, early mornings and taking care of family.
Bailey said her mother often told her stories of Smith's upbringing on the cotton farm, where he was the baby of the family and often seen as the "tenderhearted one."
"He would sing to the cows when he'd go out to milk them in the morning and in the afternoon before supper ... and he would always get twice as much milk," Bailey giggled. "He comes alive with his goats and horses. He has always loved his animals."
Even now, at 90 years old, Smith is still known to sing and talk to his ranch animals.
But Smith's life was also one of hardship and war.
He served in the Navy during WWII from 1942 to 1945 on the USS Boyd as a machinist, sometimes going months without seeing land. Part of his mission was to fight back kamikaze pilots, Bailey said.
But Smith now enjoys the quiet of his life, and the time he spends with his children, grandchildren and church family.
I think I've lived this long "because I valued hard work," Smith said, grinning. "I stayed active all these years. And when you stay active and don't complain, you get along a lot better."