Founding Loretto Legion member still contributing

LORETTO – A local senior who will be 90 years old in March is the only remaining founding charter member of the Loretto American Legion Auxiliary Post 748.

Kathleen Smith was recently presented with a certificate and plaque honoring her for 68 years as a member and for her service to the community.

She was born in Loretto on March 25, 1925, and except for moving from county to county for her late husband’s job, she has lived in the same house that her father, Inglebert Farabaugh, built some 60 years ago.

Her husband, Alfred Smith, who passed away in 2007, was manager of Agway’s Store and the physical plant director at Saint Francis University.

The couple moved several times over the years until Kathleen said, “Enough is enough.”

The Smiths celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June 2007, just before Alfred passed away in August of that year. They met at Saint Francis, where Kathleen started as the first cook at the college fraternity, and after meeting Alfred and getting married and starting a family, she then became a “full-time family cook.”

Alfred retired in 2002 because of failing health. He was also a 60-year member of the Loretto American Legion.

The couple have five children: Ann Oswalt of Punta Gorda, Fla.; Richard and David, both of Loretto; Carl of Plano, Texas, and Joyce Black of Lilly. They also have 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

During World War II, Kathleen, who was 18 years old, went to Cleveland, where she worked as many of the young people did as “Rosie the Riveter” at Fisher Aircraft for three years. Thanks to Kathleen’s great-niece, Betsy Lemme of Cresson, she now has several beautiful puzzle photographs of “Rosie the Riveter” on her walls to remind her of “those days.”

Rosie the Riveter is commonly used as a symbol of “feminism and women’s economic power.”

After that adventure, she worked at a factory in Trenton, N.J., making light bulbs, before returning home and meeting her future husband.

Smith said the American Legion Auxiliary has been an important part of her life, especially when her grandson, Cody Black, won the essay contest in 2012 on Americanism. The award he received helped a lot with his college expenses, Smith said.

She pointed out that the programs done by the auxiliary for the veterans are most rewarding.

In her lifetime, Smith has donated five gallons of blood, helped out at funerals by making coffee and assisted with fundraising breakfasts for the Firemen’s Auxiliary.

Her daughter, Joyce Black, said she “is amazed by what Mom can do at her age, and even more amazed that she would just take off at 18 and be “Rosie the Riveter.”

Smith has hand-stitched and embroidered more than 25 quilts and loves to work in the garden, where she still grows her vegetables for her “famous” vegetable soup, and still sends her chili relish to relatives in Florida, along with her special cinnamon rolls.

“Each one of our aunts,” Black said, “is noted for something special. Mom is a very independent woman, and she has passed that on to her children.”

Another sister, Ann Oswalt, who lives in Florida, said that each one of their aunts had a special mission in their lives. Aunt Rita Hoover of Loretto was “our doctor, and we wouldn’t even go to a hospital without seeing Aunt Rita first.

“We received sympathy when necessary from Aunt Helen Biller (of Loretto), and Aunt Frances Jones (of Ebensburg) was our family beautician,” Oswalt said. “Aunt Del Rosa Struss (of Patton) was our seamstress and Aunt Flo Farabaugh (of Loretto) was our babysitter.”

Oswalt also recalled how her mom handed out sugar and gasoline coupons during the war and how she would go to the tower in Loretto and give a report to authorities in Washington, D.C. on what kinds of airplanes were flying overhead.

“Mom also purchases Christmas cards every year and sends them overseas to our soldiers,” Oswalt said.