- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Bertha Smith, who recently celebrated her 99th birthday, can often be found leading an exercise class for fellow residents at St. Bernards Village.

“We just have fun with it. And if I goof up, somebody tells me I missed one,” she told the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/174ErpO ). “That’s fine. I like it that way.”

Smith has been assisting Teri Holder, activities coordinator there, with the exercises for more than a year.

“I got started doing it because the lady who was leading it, helping Teri out, got to where she couldn’t breathe,” Smith said. “So I’d take over and help her. Of course, I just fell right into it when she got sick and wasn’t able to do it anymore.”

Not only does Smith lead the class on Wednesdays, she fills in when Holder can’t be there.

“And if she’s late for class, I go ahead and start it on time,” Smith added.

She enjoys leading the class, as well as participating in it.

“I’ve exercised all my life, and I’ve been in athletics. I’ve played basketball in elementary school and high school and then in college, too,” Smith said.

Smith was born Dec. 28, 1915, to Orville and Adah Dehoff near Cherry Valley, one of six children, and grew up around Black Oak.

“I grew up on a farm. I did everything from bale hay to making sorghum molasses. I learned to do all kinds of work, and it came in handy,” Smith recalled.

Smith knew she wanted to be a teacher after second grade.

“I had a lovely teacher. I was quite shy. She brought me out of that,” Smith said. “I loved school. I didn’t want to ever get out of school. I enjoyed all of it.”

She received her teaching degree from Arkansas State College.

“I started teaching with one year of college. And every year, I’d have to get so many hours to keep my license,” Smith said.

Locally, she taught at Valley View, the Philadelphia community, Herman community and Bono. She also taught in Idaho and California, before retiring and moving to Jonesboro in 1983.

“I started (teaching) fourth grade. Different years I’d teach different grades. I taught 41 years in all,” she said.

Smith, who has lived at St. Bernards Village for four years, said she loves keeping active. In addition to the exercise class, which is held three times a week, her hobbies include reading, watching television, crocheting and doing crafts and occasionally, sewing.

“I started sewing when I was very young,” she said. “I got to where I could look at a dress in a catalog and make one just like it. I love sewing, but I can’t see how to sew very well. Once in awhile, I’ll sew up something any way.”

She plans to continue to lead the exercise classes for as long as she can.

“I still have real good health,” Smith said.

“I’m shocked more people here don’t take advantage of the exercise class, because we exercise every joint in our body from our fingers to tip toes. I think we have a real good program here for the elderly,” she added.

Smith and her husband, Ben, who passed away in 1983, have four sons, Gary Smith of Jonesboro, Jerry Smith of Williams, Arizona, Russell Smith of Brookland and the late Ben Logan Smith. She also has 14 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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