DENVER – Sitting on a couch in her Park Hill home that she purchased in 1956, Hattie B. Smith, 97, scrolls through Facebook on her iPad.
“I can see my family… When I don’t go to church, I just watch it on here,” said Hattie, who is now the oldest member of her church, Central Baptist Church in Denver.
Hattie says her iPad helps her keep up with fellow church members, her favorite sports team, the Denver Nuggets, and family members who live in other cities.
She has spent most of her life in Denver, but her story began 97 years ago in the Deep South.
“I was born in 1926 in Tchula, Mississippi. The “T” is silent. It’s about 90 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi,” Hattie said.
At 19 years old, Hattie moved to Chicago after falling in love with Johnnie Smith.
“We got married in 1946,” she said.
Johnnie fought in World War II. The couple eventually settled in Denver after the war and raised three sons.
“My baby was the first Black child to be born at Fitzsimons Hospital,” Hattie said. “When we first came here, from Five Points up to Downing Street is all they allowed for Black people.”
Hattie remembers Five Points as the center of Black life in Denver at that time.
“That's where all the night clubs, little bars were: 715, Rossonian and all those things. All the Black soldiers would go there,” she said. “The soldiers my husband met... not all of them, but some, they would come down and visit with us. We lived on 24th in Welton Street at the time, right around the corner from Central Baptist Church. But all of that is torn down now.”
Hattie served her community for more than 60 years, volunteering for civil rights causes and for her church. She became a pillar in her community,
Hattie says although some parts of her life were hard, overall, life has been good.
“When my children passed (away), you know, I really think my children hit me worse than my husband,” Hattie said. “I had a sweetheart for a husband, and then we had children. I had a beautiful life.”
Her advice to anyone hoping to make it to year 97 is simple.
“Say your prayers and whatever you got to do. And try to help somebody else along the way,” she said.