Memories over the past eight decades have marked a time for celebrating Henry “Smitty” Smith’s 80th birthday.
A big birthday bash took stock of the memories for the Greens- boro, North Carolina, native, whose Dec. 28 birthday was celebrated on the same day at Palm Coast Community Center.
The room stood out with black and gold-trimmed chair covers, matching tableware and favors, for 130 guests. Three matching birthday cakes were in the mix.
It was elaborate and a line-up of tastes from KC’s Cooking Company.
Gladys Knight’s vocal articulation of “Wind Beneath My Wings” was sung by Smitty’s goddaughter, vocalist and twin Alexis Williams.
Deejay Chester McNorton “got down’’ with the music, and Smitty and wife Thea started the dancing with another sensation of Gladys Knight, “The Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me.”
All of that is credited to Thea’s wonderful planning.
What’s more, the program entailed a welcome, roast and tributes, blessing of the occasion, and remarks.
“This is the occasion that we’ve been waiting for 80 years, and I think it was worth waiting,” said Smitty’s cousin, emcee Walter Harris.
“There are impressive things that happened in 1939,” said Smitty’s son, Keith Butler, “but none compared to the gift that God has given us in Henry Smith.”
Nneka Butler, Smitty’s daughter-in-law, said, “(We) hope that God grants you (Smitty) many years of His grace and mercy… We welcome you (the guests) to the birthday celebration.”
It’s been an incredible journey for a guy, who wears 80 years well – formerly a good baseball player – who’s deeply rooted in family, church, and his wife.
The honoree is chairman of the board of directors of Chapter 2 of the New York City Transit Retirees of Florida, a retired train operator, who gives unconditional love, kindness, and humor, putting himself in harm’s way, and is purposeful, helpful, and understanding. He is a marvelous man with talents.
Plenty of humor
The tributes were conveyed by Smitty’s other goddaughter, twin Alana Williams, grandchildren Khyla and Malik Butler, cousin Walter Harris, in-law the Rev. Tyrone Monro, friend Gladys Washington, co-worker Dottie Townsend, and neighbor the Rev. Reggie Bynum.
Thea recalled when she and Smitty were dating, and at a party. “The first thing he said to me was, I’m not looking for marriage; I’m just passing through.”
The couple has since been married for 43 years.
“You have to really live two doors down from Smitty,” the Rev. Reggie Bynum responded.
Rev. Bynum said, “I was lying in my bed at 6 in the morning, and the sun hadn’t come up yet, and all of a sudden, I jumped out of bed, and I started to put on my clothes.
“And, my wife said, “‘Where are you going?”’
I said, “I got to get up before Smitty starts to mow the lawn.
“‘She said, He’s not going to mow the lawn at 6 o’clock in the morning.”’
At that point, Rev. Bynum began making mowing sounds.
“And, I asked him, ‘Smitty, I know that the grass does not grow that much overnight.
“‘He said, Reggie, when I was younger, I used to mow the lawn every, single weekend… and it would be good, and it would last a whole week. But after I got older, I got smarter, and now, I just take a section of the lawn each day.’”
“And, we know when the sun comes up, and it is time to walk the dog,” the minister recounted, “Smitty is the first one out doing his lawn. It’s true, he does it every day, but he doesn’t do the same section…He has the greenest, most lavish, prettiest lawn for miles and miles in Palm Coast.”
I am blessed
Speaking of what he was feeling, Smitty doted on a few stanzas of a hymn, “and giving God thanks for keeping me. I know I am blessed,” he added.
“And, I want to thank Thea.”
At that point, he related that last January, Thea began speaking of throwing his 80th birthday party. And soon, she was booking the facility and doing little things.
And when he asked her, “Look. What about this (party)?”
“And after her second time of saying, “Don’t worry,”…I just let her do I just let her do her thing. And, so here we are!
“And, I want you to give Thea a hand,” he said.
With that, he kissed her, and they went dancing into the “sunset’’ to Gladys Knight’s “The Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me.”
As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted, the prodigal son, or daughter, and the bereaved.
Birthday wishes to Raven Sword, Esq., Jan. 23;
Sheldon Shamarr Henderson, Jan. 24;
Shaaf McGlown, Jan. 26;
Young Roman Sword, Jan. 27;
and the Rev. G. Vincent Lewis, Jan. 29.
Happy anniversary to B.J. and Marva Jones, Jan. 25.