BY HELEN LYONS — Ms. Geraldine E. Smith has seen a lot of change over the last century — from the passage of women’s suffrage in 1920 to the nomination of the first woman candidate in a major party for president just last year — but if you ask her what has changed just outside her front door, the longtime Hyattsville resident will tell you:

“Not much!”

Smith, or “Gerry” to her friends and family, lived on 39th Avenue in a charming Sears and Roebuck prefab house with a red door and red shutters for 67 1/2 years.

On Nov. 26, she will turn 100.

“People knew our house as the ‘fairytale’ house or the ‘storybook’ house,” said Smith’s daughter, Claudia Smith, agreeing with her mother that despite the passage of time, “the neighborhood looks pretty much the same.”

Gerry Smith’s “fairytale” house, where she lived for 67 1/2 years in Hyattsville. Photo courtesy of Jamal Francis
Gerry Smith’s “fairytale” house, where she lived for 67 1/2 years in Hyattsville. Photo courtesy of Jamal Francis

Traditions in the city may have evolved somewhat — Magruder Park hosts fireworks on the city’s anniversary instead of the Fourth of July now, and Christmas trees collected from street curbs are turned into mulch rather than burned in a community bonfire — but the core values have stayed the same: family, community, and service.

In nearly 68 years living in the city, Smith has shared these values in numerous ways.

She was a substitute teacher at Hyattsville Elementary School and Hyattsville Junior High, and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Hyattsville for 50 years. She was also a Girl Scout Leader and Civil Defense leader. She loves flowers, and neighbors looked to her “storybook” house for inspiration for their own gardens.

Even approaching 100, Smith has a smile for everyone she sees — and a sense of humor, too.

“She asked me how old she was going to be and I told her 100,” said her son, Gary Smith. “She said, ‘How did I get to be that old?’ I told her, ‘I don’t know, how old do you feel?’ She said ‘76.’”

Her family will hold a private birthday party. But residents who would like to can wish her a happy centennial.

In a post on the HOPE listserv, Smith’s grandaughter Crista Smith encouraged neighbors to reach out to her grandmother.

“I know it would make her happy to receive birthday cards from people in the community she has been a part of and loved for almost 70 years. She is always interested in news of what’s going on in Hyattsville.”

Birthday wishes can be addressed to Geraldine E. Smith at Sacred Heart Home, 5805 Queens Chapel Rd., RM 101, Hyattsville, MD 20782.