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Palm Harbor man, a former YMCA leader, turns 100

On Saturday, nearly three dozen close friends and family members from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida gathered at Daddy's Grill in Oldsmar to celebrate Chester C. "Chet" Smith's 100th birthday.

The Palm Harbor resident was born Dec. 1, 1909, in Greensboro, N.C., the son of Chester Cummings Smith and Kate Manerval Smith, and brother of Carl M. Smith and Rae S. Davis.

He attended High Point College (now High Point University) in High Point, N.C., where he was active in baseball, track and soccer and coached the soccer team during his junior and senior years. He served as president of his 1931 graduating class and was voted "Best All-Around." During a nostalgic visit to the campus in August, he learned from current university president Nido Qubein that he wasn't the oldest graduate still living — one is 103 and another is 105.

He married Gladys Hill of Kannapolis, N.C., in 1939. They were married 17 years until her death in 1956. His second wife, Ruth, passed away in 2008.

Mr. Smith had a 48-year career with the YMCA and served on several southern, national and international boards, committees and associations in a variety of capacities during and after his working years. These positions were held in High Point, Kannapolis, Atlanta and at Danville and Richmond, Va., where he was general secretary before retiring in 1974 to Highland Lakes in Palm Harbor.

He has always been active in Presbyterian churches in the cities where he lived. He is currently a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Dunedin, and has been a member and past director of the Rotary Club.

Mr. Smith has had a lifelong affinity for making things grow. A lawn care service cuts his grass now, but he maintains his flowers. When their children were young, he and his first wife, Gladys, hired a man with a mule to plow up vacant lots adjoining their house. They then planted, weeded, watered, picked and canned many different kinds of vegetables until their basement was full of a year's worth of food.

During retirement, he and his second wife, Ruth, enjoyed traveling abroad. They also explored the United States in their camper and from their boat fished the Gulf of Mexico and area lakes.

Mr. Smith has a passion for golfing. He cut back to nine holes from 18 a few years ago and usually drives his golf cart to the club twice a week.

His daughter, Jane Merritt, said, "I think of my father's philosophy and the YMCA as inseparable as I was growing up. The three-sided triangle of the YMCA stands for 'Spirit, Mind and Body.' My father lived his life well in these areas. Serving his God, providing for and raising his family, and working for the Y have been his priorities. I'd say he's lived a successful life."

If asked what Mr. Smith's secret to longevity is, Mrs. Merritt is certain his response would be to eat ice cream. Two or three cartons can always be found in his freezer.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Smith has a son, Craig Smith; two stepchildren; and several grand, great-grand, and great-great-grandchildren.

• • •

Top of the World residents Leon and Mary White of Clearwater celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at a family dinner attended by the couple's two sons and their families.

The Whites married Nov. 25, 1949, in Jacksonville.

They came to Clearwater in 1996 from Kissimmee.

Both retired from the Salvation Army ministry, having served a total of 91 years with the organization between them.

The couple are members of the Salvation Army Corps on Belleair Road and enjoy fellowship with the Men's Club and Home League.

Mr. White likes to fish and he and his wife enjoy spending time with family and friends.

In addition to their two sons, the Whites have twin grandsons and two granddaughters; and six great-grandchildren.

Palm Harbor man, a former YMCA leader, turns 100 12/02/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 6:12pm]
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