2017-08-11 / Neighbors

‘I’ve had such a good, full life’

By Melissa Simon


CENTER OF ATTENTION—Mary Verble Smallman celebrates her 100th birthday with family and friends at her Simi Valley home Aug. 5. Pictured, from left, are Smallman’s daughters, Frances Candelaria and Betty Verble Smith; Smallman; and her son, Daniel Verble. 
CHERYL HUTCHISON/Acorn Newspapers CENTER OF ATTENTION—Mary Verble Smallman celebrates her 100th birthday with family and friends at her Simi Valley home Aug. 5. Pictured, from left, are Smallman’s daughters, Frances Candelaria and Betty Verble Smith; Smallman; and her son, Daniel Verble. CHERYL HUTCHISON/Acorn Newspapers On a warm, sunny afternoon last week, Mary Verble Smallman sat in her home in Simi Valley’s Friendly Village, dressed to the nines with her hair and nails done, reminiscing about her life.

It was Fri., Aug. 4 and some of Smallman’s family members had arrived in town early to prepare for her big 100th birthday bash the following day. Roughly 120 guests came together Saturday to celebrate the birthday girl at the Friendly Village clubhouse.

Asked whether she had any secrets to living a long life, Smallman answered in the negative.

“But if I did, I wouldn’t tell because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore,” she said, joking.

“I can tell you this, I never stop moving and doing, and I’ve always done the same things, like my own work and taking care of my house.”

Frances Candelaria, one of Smallman’s three children, said she doesn’t think of her mother as being 100 years old.

“When I read of other people being that old, I think, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’” said Candelaria, 80. “And it really is amazing that she has lived such a long life and I still have her, especially when I’ve lost so many of my own friends and can’t think of many who still have a living mother.”

Family-focused

The youngest of nine children, Smallman was born Aug. 4, 1917, to Joseph and Elvira Espinoza in Nogales, Ariz., about 70 miles south of Tucson. When she was just a baby, the family moved to Los Angeles, where one of her older sisters already lived with her husband.

When Smallman was 18 years old, she married Daniel Verble, who was 19.

After getting married Dec. 1, 1935, the young couple had a rough time trying to find a place to live. Eventually they moved from Los Angeles to a small apartment above a market in San Fernando.

“Both my parents are wonderful,” Candelaria said. “They worked hard, and my mother, especially, worked hard caring for us. The center of her life has always been her family, and she was content to watch her children, although she did work for about nine years (from 1940 to 1949) at a market. She just always seemed to know when we needed her.”

The couple were married nearly 55 years when Verble died in 1990 at the age of 74.

Then, in the summer of 1991, the widow met George Smallman at a grief support group in Pacoima. The two hit it off instantly and were married Feb. 1, 1992.Special The couple moved to Simi Valley later that year.

“I was a cougar because my George was 68 when we met and I was 73,” Smallman joked. “But he had the prettiest blue eyes and was so sweet.

“We were married until 2014 and were always together, holding hands at the restaurant and wherever we went,” she continued, a catch in her throat. “He got sick and went into a coma before Thanksgiving in 2014, and he passed away right here in my living room. I told him I would be OK, he could let go and I’ll be with him again someday.”

Despite losing both of her husbands, Smallman said, she is grateful for the years she shared with them.

“I’ve had such a good, full life and thank the Lord every night for my good health,” the centenarian said, adding that every day spent with family is a gift.

Smallman has three children: Candelaria; Daniel Verble, 78; and Betty Verble Smith, 71.

She also has 13 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great-grandchildren.

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