A local senior citizen celebrated her 80th birthday high above Union County.
Virginia Smith turned 80 on June 28, and her children wanted to do something special to celebrate the milestone occasion.
“Mom was born in 1932,” said Reid Smith, the eldest of Virginia’s four children. “She had traveled by car, bus and train, but she had never had a chance to fly.”
Virginia had expressed a desire to fly several times, and her children — Reid, Curtis, Kathy and Maxie — decided that would make the perfect birthday gift.
“We really wanted to give her something special for her 80th birthday,” Curtis said.
The family celebrated with a birthday party at Shady’s — which Curtis owns — and Virginia found out that she was finally going to get to fly in an airplane.
On the next Sunday, July 8, Virginia’s daughter-in-law Judy and grandson Austin left Owens Field in Columbia with pilot Chris Matris in a Cessna 172. Reid said Matris has been flying for about 20 years and loves to take people up to fly.
“He just did it for the love of flying,” Reid said.
The group met Virginia at the Union County Airport.
“She was excited,” Reid said. “She showed no fear whatsoever.”
Virginia is still buzzing over her flight around Union.
“It was great,” she said. “It was just me and the airplane pilot. I looked down and saw all the green trees. I recognized Buffalo Mill because of the two towers. I thought I recognized my house. I wouldn’t take anything for that ride.”
Matris even handed the controls over to Virginia for a couple of minutes during the flight.
“I don’t know whether I controlled it or not, but I took a hold of that other wheel,” Virginia laughed. “I’m ready to go again.”
She said she is now ready to fly on a jet, perhaps to Louisiana to visit some friends there. Curtis made her a DVD slide show featuring photos from her flight. He titled the DVD “Mom’s First Flight.”
“It’s not going to be my last,” Virginia said.
Virginia — a former employee of Buffalo, Monarch and Union mills who retired from Torrington — said she has always been active.
“When I went to work at Torrington, they had to slow me down,” she said. “I wanted to work too fast.”
Virginia has experienced a heart attack, a stroke and a triple bypass, but she still stays active. She goes to lunch each day with the Union County Senior Citizens on N. Gadberry St.
“We play bingo and other games, have Bible studies, or sometimes we just talk and gossip,” she laughed. “It’s like one big family. We have about 18 every day. I wish more people would go.”
Virginia said she also loves to read and never misses a thing in the newspaper. While at home, she enjoys spending time with her pets — two chihuahua/daschund mixes, Love and Cocoa and a 130-pound blue heeler/rottweiler mix named Missy that follows Virginia everywhere. Each night, Missy sleeps by Virginia’s bed or in the hall with her head in the bedroom.
Virginia pointed out pictures displayed in her living room and said she is thankful for her large family consisting of nine grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
“I have a big family and it’s still growing,” she said.
After her late husband — Curtis Smith, Sr. — passed away, Virginia moved in with her son Curtis. Curtis and Kathy serve as her caregivers on a daily basis.
“I might be 80 years old, but I’ve had a good life and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Virginia said.