Centenarian's secret: Naples man turns 105, works out daily

Dania Maxwell/Staff
Francis Smith and his wife Priscilla, arrive to Planet Fitness where employees will surprise him with a cake to celebrate his 105th birthday on Friday, Mar. 1, 2013 in Naples, Fla. They are prized members of the gym, exercising three times a week. Today also marks the 30th wedding anniversary for the couple.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL // Buy this photo

Dania Maxwell/Staff Francis Smith and his wife Priscilla, arrive to Planet Fitness where employees will surprise him with a cake to celebrate his 105th birthday on Friday, Mar. 1, 2013 in Naples, Fla. They are prized members of the gym, exercising three times a week. Today also marks the 30th wedding anniversary for the couple.

Francis works out at Planet Fitness twice a week, and with a personal trainer once a week.

His Planet Fitness workout includes three sets of 10 reps for each of the following exercises and weights:

100 pounds leg press

30 pounds shoulder press

20 pounds chest press

40 pounds lateral pull down

60 pounds rowing machine

40 pounds triceps extensions

20 pounds bicep curls

50 pounds leg curls

stomach crunches

Francis Smith arrived at the gym, holding his wife’s hand and gripping a cane.

He swiped his Planet Fitness membership card, said hello to the staff, and smiled as they began singing “Happy Birthday.”

Smith had planned to lift some weights Friday morning. Instead, the Naples resident broke routine and had some cake to celebrate turning 105 on Sunday.

“You’re allowed to have a cheat day once in a while,” said Planet Fitness manager Ken Small.

Smith, a native of Maine, has lived in Naples for 11 years. He didn’t start working out until three years ago, after a fall and a shoulder injury required physical therapy. Fellow patrons called his regular presence at the East Naples gym an inspiration, musing over the secret to his health and longevity.

“I don’t know (the secret), to be honest,” Smith said. “I marvel at the fact that I have gone this long. I’d be fairly certain that coming to Florida helped considerably. You don’t have the physical stress you had up north.”

Smith worked for decades as an electrical engineer and fathered three sons. He uses a cane and a walker to get around these days. While he’s always led a healthy life, exercise was never part of his regular routine.

“I never thought of it,” he said. “I’ve always had a flexible body and one that seems to work. I’ve been active all my life. When I was 80, I put vinyl siding on my house.”

Smith graciously accepted congratulations on Friday. Wearing glasses and a Planet Fitness T-shirt, he smiled, shook hands and laughed. Soft-spoken and clever, he blew out the candles on his cake before scraping the icing off his own slice and digging in.

Priscilla, 78, said her husband is still as sharp and good-looking as when the two met 30 years ago on a windjammer cruise. He was 75. She was 48 at the time and not planning to remarry.

“I was not looking for a man who lived in a mobile home and drove a Honda and was 75,” she said.

Smith won her over “Subtly and through my charm,” he said. “Somehow, we clicked.”

This year, the couple is celebrating 30 years of marriage, a fact Smith’s birthday cake also noted in blue icing.

But the secret to a long marriage is just as elusive for Priscilla as Smith’s secret to a long life.

“I don’t know,” she said. “We’re just happy. You give and take, and he has the patience of Job.”

Gym member Dave Mulligan said the two secrets must be linked.

“His wife keeps him young,” the 69-year-old said.

Ruth Richmond, 79, arrived early on Friday in time to snap photos of Smith and his cake. Last year, she sent pictures of his 104th birthday to friends back in Michigan who couldn’t believe Smith was that age.

“He’s a great inspiration to all of us,” Richmond said. “He just looks like the typical man and grandpa we all admire. It’s his happiness and his attitude. To me, it is unreal.”

Small has been celebrating Smith’s birthday each year since he turned 102. He’s told the other patrons they’ll get a celebration when they turn 100. In the meantime, he lets the Smiths workout at the gym for free because “they’re nice people” and he too is impressed by Smith’s age.

“It’s one thing to be working out, staying healthy and feeling good,” Small said. “But to be that old and doing it, that’s a lot of dedication.”

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