By Sterling McGinn

A third area resident has hit their century mark—this time a World War II veteran and longtime Germfask community member Albert “Gene” Smith. In addition to his 100th birthday, he and his wife Elnore celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary on June 18.

His birthday was celebrated with family and friends at the Germfask Community Center on Saturday, June 8.

“I got a lot of handshakes and hugs and they broadcasted it on TV,” Gene said.

State Senator Ed McBroom and Representative Dave Prestin attended his birthday party and presented Gene a special framed proclamation signed by both of them and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

He was born June 7, 1924, in Utica, Michigan and came to Germfask as an infant with his family in a Model T Ford.

“My family moved up and came across on a boat and settled in Germfask,” he said. The oldest of eight children, he grew up in Germfask and attended the village school. Gene lost both of his parents when he was in the 4th grade and he went to live with his uncle John Losey.

In February of 1943, Gene was drafted and served in the U.S. Air Force as a sergeant during WWII. “I spent three years in the military— I was a cook and I was told I served 2,200 meals.”

Smith was in England on D-Day, spending a year there before moving to France for the last six months of the war.

After his service with the U.S. Air Force, he returned home and held several jobs including working at Caffey’s Service Station, Gonser’s in Seney, and cutting pulpwood.

On June 18, 1947, Gene married Elnore Saunders in Newberry and together, the couple have four children: Robert, Edna, Marvin, and Barbara.

He spent 29 years on the Schoolcraft County Road Commission working in Seney as a mechanic and in road maintenance. After retiring from the county, he worked for John Zellar Sr. for 20 years as a heavy equipment operator and mechanic.

During his spare time, Gene was active in the Masons in Manistique where he is going on 55 years as a member.

“I still go to lodge—I am the chaplain,” he said. He is an honorary member of the McMillan Masonic Lodge in Newberry. “I had a lot of friends at McMillan Lodge, I used to come, but it is hard for me to get around, and I can’t come anymore.”

He also belongs to the Ahmed Shriners of Marquette and drove his Little Indy parade car in the Curtis Independence Day parade for years, though he has missed the last couple of events.

Gene repaired watches as a hobby.

“I could take a watch apart and put it back together. But my eyes got bad, and I don’t do it anymore,” he said.

He is also a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was a past commander of Doran-Keating VFW Post.

“I have been a member of the Germfask Methodist Church for 65 years and I have been going over 70 years,” said Gene.

In honor of his service during WWII, Gene went on the second U.P. Honor Flight to Washington D.C. from Escanaba in 2012, which he feels was a remarkable experience. This trip is still going today.

Gene said turning 100 caught him somewhat off guard.

“I never thought too much about turning 100,” he explained. “Every year, it got closer and a little closer and it finally creeped up on me.”

Gene and Elnore still live on their property in Germfask, where he still cuts wood and stays active.