No time to slow down for Phoebe Smith

"Phoebe Smith doesn’t have time to think about slowing down. At 91, when some might be content to take it easy, Smith recently added to her already impressive resume by producing a musical variety show. “It was very special,” Smith said of the intergenerational show, “Together,” which ran for two days in late November. “It had a cast of 100. Some days I wasn’t sure I could bring it all together.”"

  • Sunday, January 2, 2000 6:00pm
  • News

“Phoebe Smith doesn’t have time to think about slowing down. At 91, when some might be content to take it easy, Smith recently added to her already impressive resume by producing a musical variety show. “It was very special,” Smith said of the intergenerational show, “Together,” which ran for two days in late November. “It had a cast of 100. Some days I wasn’t sure I could bring it all together.” Not that Smith doesn’t have confidence in herself, confidence born of years of experience as a teacher, musical performer and writer. An island resident for the last 25 years, Smith was born and raised in Seattle before moving to the Centralia area, where she taught high school and met her husband, Chesley Alfred Smith.They moved back to Seattle to raise three daughters. When her youngest was age 9, Smith returned to teaching, this time at the elementary school level. She taught as many music classes as she could, often trading away her math and science classes to teachers who dreaded teaching music. “My profession was music,” she said. “Mainly singing and playing piano.” While Smith has been instrumental in organizing Bainbridge Island vocal groups like the Evergreen Singers and was for many years the accompanist for Bainbridge Light Opera, many people who know this nonagenarian think “writer” when they hear her name. Author of the oral history collections “80 Candles” and “Glimpses of Bainbridge,” Smith at one time wrote a weekly column for the Review and currently has a hand in writing “The Bugle,” the bimonthly newsletter for the Senior Center. “I love writing,” Smith said, who was 75 when she discovered this hidden talent. It shouldn’t be surprising that the writer/musician tried her hand at writing music. Smith wrote the Bainbridge tribute “Arch of Green” a few years ago for the choral group “Young Voices.” The song is featured on the recently released compact disc of island talent, “By Boat and By Bridge.” Asked to pick her greatest accomplishment, Smith responded without hesitation: “The Senior Center, which I started 17 years ago. You know how sometimes you have a big dream and it turns out even better than you expected?” As one of its founders and its first president, Smith delights in the growth of the Senior Center and its wide variety of programs. “This place is a blessing for older people, a connection. There’s so much life here. It’s my second home,” she said with a warm smile. Several years ago, Smith discovered her motto and posted it on the wall at the Senior Center: “The highest goal is to die young at a very old age.” Smith credits her father for instilling her with a positive attitude, noticeable when questioned about limitations that come with aging.“I’m very lucky,” she said. “The activities I’ve always done I can still do. I don’t garden and I don’t cook, so I don’t have to worry about not being able to do them.” When asked what’s next on her personal agenda, Smith smiled and replied. with the mantra of every busy person:“I want to catch up on my personal life.” But will she have time?”

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