Georgia Smith turned 80 years young in August to a big celebration and parade at the Uncle Remus Museum where Smith has spent the last 14 years as a docent.
But that is only a part of the long life of Smith and her spouse Rufus of 61 years. They have always lived in Putnam County and 51 years ago, they received a residential telephone number and to this day, their number remains the same.
During their 61 years of marriage, the Smith’s raised six children, three boys and three girls, and now have 15 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
Raised on East Harris Street, now known as Willie Bailey Street, by her grandmother Adel Bullard, Smith spent her childhood learning the right way to live life after her parents divorced and went their separate ways to Illinois and Michigan.
“The whole street had to raise me while my grandmother was at work,” Smith said. “We need to get back to that today. My grandmother was my rock, my salvation and my mentor. She was everything. I could always ask her a question and even though she only had a third grade education, she had a PhD in common sense.”
That common sense, Smith noted, was a big factor in laying the foundation that helped shape and create the woman Smith became.
“She meant so much to me. It gave me the insight to give back. Whatever she had, she would divide it with someone else,” Smith recalled with a faint grin of remembrance creasing the corners of her mouth as she paused. “My grandmother worked for two dollars a day. We never went hungry. We never got put out of our house. She never cooked for two, it was always eight or nine and she invited them all in for a plate.”
In the spring of 1968, Putnam General Hospital opened its doors and on March 1, the day it officially opened, Smith became one of the first employees at the hospital as a medical secretary, eventually climbing the ladder and completing a vast 34-year career at PGH, retiring in 2010.
“It was so cold and so windy that first day we couldn’t get any patients," Smith remembered. “But that next day, we brought 12 patients over from the old hospital and away we went.”
But deep down inside the woman who knows every story of Uncle Remus and the museum, there is still this little girl who grew up with an affinity and yearning for her little town to become something.
“I just want this little town to stay the way it is,” she said. “It has always had so much unity not just in town but around the county. Everybody knows everybody. When 2020 came in, God took the entire world and just shook it to get every person’s attention. He has mine. There are a lot of people he still doesn’t have.”