On a typical early-October day in sweltering Miami, Hypha Bardowell Smatt sat in her chair directly in front of the television. As usual, she watched the news at a loud volume with her dog, Ziggy, by her side. It was just perfect for Smatt.
Smatt turns 100 years old on Sunday, Oct. 4. Greek Orthodox Lebanese from Jamaica, she adds a ‘mon’ every so often as she speaks. Her contagious laughter is peppered throughout every memory.
She loves staying up to date on news and politics, especially listening to former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. Smatt is adamant about her love for the news: “Yes, mon! I watch the news all day.”
In Jamaica, her family owned a small department store. As a young girl working in the store, she and her sister would keep some of the money when they sold caps. She laughed as she remembered the times her mother found the money they had taken from the store.
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Smatt visited her aunt in New York a few times and decided to live with her. She worked as a bookkeeper and phone operator at a company that made and sold boxes.
She met her future husband, William Smatt, at a party in New York. Speaking about Bill, Smatt smiled as her eyes seemed to travel back to the time she met him.
“At this function, I met Bill. I was on top of a table. I wanted to see what was going on. I was small, you know?” she laughed. “So he had to take me down from the table.”
Religion has always been a part of Smatt’s life. She was a founding member of the Grace Missionary Church in Jamaica and has been an active member of Wayside Baptist Church in Kendall for 38 years.
“Without him, we can’t do nothing. I pray every night, oh yeah! Naturally, without him, what would you do?” Smatt said about God.
She’s a very strong person. She has seen everything. Even to this day, she just keeps working hard. She has a very strong character. I think that’s what made her live so long. And she refuses to give up.
Robert Smatt, whose mother, Hypha Bardowell Smatt, turns 100 on Sunday.
Smatt and her family moved to Miami in 1977. At first, she worked at Burdines in Dadeland Mall. She and her family then opened three shoe stores, two in Town and Country, and one in Kendale Lakes.
Smatt worked until she was 94 and it was about this time that she got her dog, Ziggy. Smatt cares for Ziggy like a son. “Ziggy has to be my son in a way in the animal world. Yes, he’s a good dog. He watches over me. Sleep right beside my foot every night. He’s like a human being.”
After she retired, Smatt has stayed active in her house, cooking and learning to use the Internet with the help of her son, Robert, who lives with her. She stopped driving about two years ago.
Robert became emotional and spoke of her perseverance through life: “She’s a very strong person. She has seen everything. Even to this day, she just keeps working hard. She has a very strong character. I think that’s what made her live so long. And she refuses to give up.”
Family friend Silvia Borges lauded Smatt: “She’s an inspirational woman. Full of wisdom. Full of life. Just a positive outlook on life. She always has adventure in her heart.”
Smatt has two steps to living long: “Just eat the right food, No. 1. No. 2, be happy. Don’t let nothing bother you. If something bothers you, go put on an interesting television show. That’s the main thing. I don’t let nobody bother me.”