Grayling woman celebrates 100th birthday with members of her family
Tue, 10/22/2019 - 11:54am caleb
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The matriarch of a Grayling family recalled the good old days and cherished her family and unique events held in the community as she marked her 100th birthday last weekend.
Bernetta Gladys Smock celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday, October 20, at a gathering held at the Higgins Lake St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church.
Smock said she has just kept living her life to reach the milestone.
“I never paid any attention to my age,” she said. “I just let it go by.”
Bernetta said the only secret to living such a long life is looking out for other people.
“Just be good,” Smock said. “Help others, and do what you can for other people.”
Bernetta is the daughter of Alice and Seth Chappel. Her grandparents were Elizabeth and Henry Ammond, the first doctor to treat patients in Ogemaw County.
The only time she left northern Michigan was to help care for relatives in Ohio.
Bernetta graduated from Grayling High School in 1936, and is the oldest living graduate from the school district. She started school in a building which was located on the south side of Grayling, and finished in what is now the Grayling Middle School.
She said not attending school was bittersweet.
“I loved it. I hated to graduate,” Bernetta said. “I did go back for a half of a year for typing. It was a wonderful place.”
Bernetta married fellow classmate Donald Smock after he served in the U.S. Army in World War II.
Donald retired from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in 1981 and then owned and operated the Milltown Fence Company.
The couple had four children: Linda, Cheri, Mike, and John.
Bernetta worked at the Ben Franklin store, which was in the Grayling Mini Mall, but was otherwise a stay-at-home mom.
“They were always there for you,” John Smock said. “You would come home from school and she would be home.”
Bernetta and Donald were well known for attending their children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events.
“We chased basketball teams from the Upper Peninsula down to Ann Arbor with my nephews,” John Smock said.
Bernetta has 12 grandkids, 23 great-grandkids and four great-great grandkids.
“That’s a lot of kids, and they are all wonderful,” Bernetta said
Bernetta’s grandson, John Sullivan, said the couple channeled the energy from those sporting matches into their lives.
“I think that was one of the things that kept them young,” Sullivan said.
They witnessed the first AuSable River Canoe Marathon and followed the race for decades.
“They saw the very first marathon, and they continuously saw the start of every marathon until 2012,” said Sullivan, who paddled in the race for 11 years.
Bernetta and Donald attended Michigan State University football games through the 1980s.
The couple did not go away for the winter or on vacations.
“They loved Grayling and didn’t care to be away from it,” Sullivan said.
Donald built two homes for the family to live in, including one on the East Branch of the AuSable River.
“We had the best place in town, and we just had lots of fun,” Berneta said.
Donald passed away in 2016 at the age of 98. The couple was married for 75 years.
“He was the best husband there was,” Bernetta said. “He was very good to us, very good to the kids. He did what he could for us, and I miss him.”
Bernetta continued to live in the family home up until last year. She is now being cared for at the Northern Pines Assisted Living in Grayling, which is owned and operated by Baruch Senior Ministries, a non-profit organization based in Grand Rapids.
Bernetta said she is glad she is able to maintain her presence in the community to be close to her family.
“I like Grayling. I always liked Grayling, and have always liked Michigan, that’s why I stayed here,” she said. “I’ve had a good life.”
She continues to enjoy playing bingo, and used to crochet and knit.
“Everybody would get a pair of mittens and a hat and stuff,” John Smock said.
Sullivan says sometimes he tapes conversations with his grandmother to keep track of the family’s history and information about others from the community.
“Anything you ever need to know about Grayling in the old days, she knows, because she lived those days,” he said.
Bernetta received a proclamation from Rep. Daire Rendon and a letter from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. She also received a congratulatory certificate from Crawford County Clerk/Register of Deeds Sandra Moore and her staff.