Springfield woman celebrates 103rd birthday and life well-lived

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. It was party time at the Birch Point Health and Rehab Center in Springfield on Thursday as a large number of staff and residents turned out to help Hazel Smith celebrate her 103rd birthday.

It's hard to imagine how much the world has changed since she was born in 1916 when World War I raged in Europe and few Americans owned cars, indoor plumbing, telephones or stoves.

Air-conditioning, TV's and washers and dryers were no where to be found.

"I didn't have those things so I didn't miss 'em," Hazel said with a shrug.

Tow-trucks and toggle-style light switches were new inventions in 1916, as was a new bread called the "hamburger bun".

So Hazel has seen a lot come and go in a life that's spanned over 37,000 days.

Hazel's daughter Sherry Walker is the lone remaining child in the family that included her two older brothers who've both passed away.

Hazel's husband Walter, a World War II veteran, died in 1963. So for 55 of her 103 years, Hazel has been a widow.

"My dad died so young at 54," Sherry said. "I think that made her even more independent."

She found new joy in traveling with her sisters and trying new things like zip-lining and riding a motorcycle, which she tried for the first and only time at the age of 93.

"I liked it," Hazel said with a huge grin. "It was fast!"

"My sister-in-law called her a go-go girl because she was always ready to go if someone wanted to travel," Sherry added.

The mother-of-three who has five grandchildren, two great-grand children and three great-great grandchildren lived on her own tending to her garden until last year, when after a series of falls, she moved into assisted living.

While she misses the good 'ol days of playing in the great outdoors, she says, "I can still think about all those good things I had and don't feel grumpy or sad."

From playing basketball in the 8th grade to working in a factory as an adult, Hazel has lived most of her life on-the-go.

"I love life, honey," she says emphatically.

But after 103 years on this earth, this woman of faith says she's ready for her heavenly reward.

"I wonder, 'Jesus, why are you keeping me here?'" she said. "I want to go. I'm tired. But the Lord put me here and I'm going to make the best of it!"