Renton’s Lorraine Smith celebrates 100 years

From a bucker at Boeing during World War II to a great-grandmother of sixteen, Lorraine Smith has lived a full life on a hill in Renton.

“Happy birthday! I made it!” said Lorraine Smith about Jan. 5, the day she turned 100.

“I didn’t want to have big plans [for my 100th birthday] like Betty White and then not even make it,” Smith said when talking about her big celebration. On that day, Smith had a homemade cake, balloons and a small portion of her large of family over to her house on a hill in Renton.

“There were a lot of phone calls, she was busy on the phone all day,” said Sharon, Smith’s daughter who lives with her. “Lots of family came over and we had ice cream and even more phone calls.”

Smith, born Lorraine Pauline Jackson, was born in 1923 and grew up during the Great Depression when her family moved across the country from Minnesota to settle in Washington state. She said that it took them three days to make the journey and that they would stop on the side of the road to eat green pepper and mayonnaise sandwiches.

“We moved in 1937 to Seattle and paid $8 a month in rent for a year before we were able to buy some land,” Smith said. She lived near Volunteer Park in a big house with three bedrooms.

During World War II, Smith was hired by Boeing to work as a bucker, which was where she met her future-husband, George, who was a riveter.

“I worked on the tail-end of the B-17 plane and I made 62.5 cents an hour, which came out to $5 a day,” Smith said. The two married in June 1943 and had their first child, Ronnie, in 1944.

Less than a year later, George was drafted into the war. While George was away, Ronnie died of pneumonia at 14 months.

“I didn’t know what to do after that,” Smith said. “I got a job at Sears as a biller and then George came back home in 1946.”

The Smiths then had three more children — Judy in 1947, Kathy in 1949 and Larry in 1951 — before buying their Renton home in 1953, which was only built two years earlier. While George continued working for Boeing, Smith was a housewife who worked hard raising their children. The family grew in 1960 and then 1963 with the births of Sharon and Randy.

“I like to say I had three stages of children,” Smith said.

While living in Renton, Smith liked attending St. Anthony Catholic Church and spending time with her neighbors.

As time went on, Smith and her husband became grandparents of nine and great-grandparents of 16 kids. Smith loves to talk about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, saying that she would often take them to Lake Washington Park or the McDonald’s in the Highlands so they could play in the McDonald’s PlayPlace.

Before George retired from Boeing in 1985, the two took a month-long trip to Germany and ended up touring through much of Europe. They rented a car and went to Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, England and even made a short bus trip to Italy.

“We booked a trip on an 11 p.m. bus, rode all night to Venice and arrived there at noon,” Smith said. “But, we were only there for five hours before we had to catch the bus all the way back.”

After George passed away in the 90s, Smith continued living in their house on a hill in Renton and she passes the time by watching game shows and classic Hollywood films. “I like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Doris Day movies,” Smith said. “I don’t care for cowboy movies or killers killing stuff.”

As for making it to 100, Smith says she never drank or smoke, but she wasn’t expecting such a long a life. “I never thought I’d make it,” Smith said. “When I was in my 90s, I thought ‘Oh well!”