Life wisdom from Mrs. Edith Renfrow Smith

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Mrs. Renfrow Smith, 10/29/21.

At 108, Mrs. Renfrow Smith still reads several books a week, makes jam, bakes for friends, and handwrites thank you notes.  She has maintained these activities during the pandemic.

In July 2020, executive producer for WOI-TV, Sarah Beckman, interviewed Mrs. Smith for a news story. Ms. Beckman's mother was so impressed by Mrs. Renfrow Smith that she wrote a note to her. Below is a tweet that shows the card Ms. Beckman's mother received from Mrs. Renfrow Smith.

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From Sarah Beckman's tweet -- "Always send personal notes: This is a postcard from Edith Renfrow Smith, a 106-year-old woman who became the 1st black female student at Grinnell College. I interviewed her, shared w/ my mom, & my mom was so touched she sent a note. Here’s Edith’s response tonight. So touched."

During her visit to the town and campus of Grinnell in October 2021, Mrs. Renfrow Smith spoke to audiences of local middle and high school students, as well as engaged with members of the College community.

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Click here to see some of the questions posed to Mrs. Renfrow Smith, as well as the answers she gave in response.  Below are pieces of wisdom she shared:

No one is born better than you

Just remember, no one, I don't care who they are, is better than you. They can have more money.  So what?  But they don't have what you have.  You have your own contribution to make to living…. And remember, the contribution you make, if you do your best, not the least.  So, if you've done your best, you say, “I’ve given all.  Consequently, I did not have to feel bad because I didn't win. I did my best.  So this is something, and this is hard for a child to remember, that what he did was the best that he could do, not the least.


On friendship

And keep your friends.  Don't get rid of your friends.  Your friends are the ones that make your life wonderful because [they] encourage you to do what you want to do.

The importance of trying

You never say, "I can't." You say, "I am going to try."  And what you try, that's the best you can do. When you don't try, how you gonna get there?


Never whine

And you know, never whineNever whine….  You get rid of whatever is upsetting you.  Don't keep it.  What you gonna do with it?  It's upsetting you.  Leave it!  Otherwise, it does no good.


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Mrs. Renfrow Smith with local Grinnell middle and high school students, 10/29/21.

Life wisdom from Mrs. Edith Renfrow Smith