Marion man celebrates 106th birthday, says happiness and moderation are keys to longevity

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Fred Allen Smalls recently turned 106, and on Wednesday, he celebrated the milestone surrounded by friends, family and his doctor, who works at HopeHealth in Florence.

Smalls, one of seven children, was born on Feb. 5, 1918. He attended school in Plantersville in a little no-name building in the woods, HopeHealth said in a news release.

Smalls later moved to Mullins where he attended Mullins High School and completed the eighth grade before moving to Washington, D.C. He had several jobs before finding his life-long job with the District of Columbia and retired in the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was president, the release said.

Smalls has been recognized and celebrated by several news outlets and community organizations for his accomplishments and longevity, the release said.

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Last October, he was featured in an NBC News article with the headline “Black People are Beating the Odds by Turning 100 — and They’re Celebrating on TikTok.”

ABC News also featured him as the oldest Philadelphia Eagles fan, and he had an early 106th birthday celebration in September after he received pre-season passes and an opportunity to meet and greet star players.

Most recently, in February 2024, Smalls was awarded an honorary diploma from Georgetown High School, where more than 100 people attended the graduation ceremony.

Smalls lives with his granddaughter, Birdella Kinney, and their dog, Bella, in Marion. He enjoys watching football, boxing, western films and eating soul food.

His granddaughter is very involved in his care and takes him to appointments at HopeHealth with his health care provider, Dr. Paul DeMarco, who attended the celebration, the release said.

“It’s been a privilege to be part of Mr. Small’s health care team,” DeMarco said. “He is the healthiest centenarian I’ve ever cared for. It was a joy for me and my wife to attend his 106th birthday party. The banquet room was filled with family, friends, and well-wishers, and our love for Mr. Smalls was palpable.”

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Small’s granddaughter, Birdella Kinney, said to be an African American male and reach 106 years old is remarkable.

“Only around 1 in every 30,000 people in the U.S. live to age 105 or older.” Kinney said.

Smalls attributes his longevity to maintaining happiness and moderation, the release said. He also says one of his biggest life lessons includes letting people walk away who didn’t want to be his friend.

“Just kind of brush them over nicely,” Smalls said.

“Well, I would say, keep a cool head,” Smalls said. “Take care of your own business. Don’t dip into other people’s affairs — and let go.”

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