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‘I don’t like playing piano, I love it’ — former teacher Hilda Smith celebrates 106th birthday

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Hilda Marie Smith reached another milestone yesterday as friends and family joined in celebrating her 106th birthday.

An avid piano player, teacher, and devout Christian, Ms Smith, born October 21, 1907, is believed to be Bermuda's oldest living resident.

Music is Ms Smith's life work. She grabbed headlines in November, 2009, when she played “God Save The Queen” on the arrival of the Queen at the Clocktower in Dockyard.

“It was all right, because I love playing,” said Ms Smith. “It didn't matter to me because I wasn't nervous about it. I love playing and I used to play anytime, anywhere, anything.

“I don't like playing, I love it”, said Ms Smith. “I've been playing [the piano] a long time; ever since I was eight, when I first started to play. I was taught by ‘Aunt Julie' [Julia Furbert] a long time ago. I loved it so I just kept at it.”

From 7.30am to 8am routinely she plays the piano for devotions at the Home.

She reads music and plays by ear; responding without hesitation when asked to play for the various church groups that regularly visit Packwood Home.

Born and raised on Crawl Hill, Hamilton Parish, she now is a resident at Packwood Home, Somerset.

Hilda Marie was the only child of Edwin and Edna Smith. She was raised by her grandparents and her aunt Julia Furbert, who among other things encouraged her to play the piano.

When she was about ten years old she completed the seventh grade and became a monitor at Temperance Hall School.

She attended Berkeley Institute and later studied at a vocational school in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In Canada she learned how to play the harp and tenor saxophone.

Upon returning to Bermuda she taught kindergarten classes at the old Talbot School.

Ms Smith was the only teacher and headteacher, and in her 30 years teaching never once missed a day at the school.

Over the years she taught at the newly opened Harrington Sound School, St David's Primary and Elliott Primary School, until her retirement at the age of 65.

As for the secret to her longevity, Ms Smith chalks it up to her faith.

“I have no secret. I am in the Lord's hand. He did that. I just did what pleased him.”

Whether it's God's will or another's, Ms Smith has lived a healthy and active life.

She has never eaten between meals and, during her school years, would walk the 12.6km from her home on Crawl Hill to the Berkeley Institute.

Even as a teacher, she rode a bicycle to school, her cousins often perched atop the handlebars.

“I did both of them. I used to walk, and take the children [to school] on the bike. I enjoyed all that, I enjoyed it very much.”

Retired teacher Hilda Smith plays the piano at the Packwood Rest Home in Somerset yesterday, as she celebrated her 106th birthday along with her cousins Joan Forde (left) and Julia Durham.

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Published October 22, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 22, 2013 at 9:14 am)

‘I don’t like playing piano, I love it’ — former teacher Hilda Smith celebrates 106th birthday

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