OCEAN CITY – A 90-year-old maintenance worker is a daily reminder to resort residents that age is just a number.
Elige W. Smith, Jr., 90, works six days a week at Summer Beach Condos on 35th Street. The Ocean Pines
resident credits the job with keeping both his mind and body active and has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
“I’m just going to go til I can’t anymore,” he said.
Smith, originally from Alabama, graduated from Georgia Tech in 1960 with a degree in electrical engineering. He went on to hold positions with Hughes Aircraft Company, Ford Aerospace Company and the Indian Health Service, among others, before retiring about 25 years ago. He’s happy to share highlights of his fascinating career with anyone interested.
“I’ve had a lot of interesting jobs,” he said. “In the 1960s I worked for Hughes Aircraft. They had a contract with NASA to build 10 experimental spacecraft to land on the moon and dig into the soil. They wanted to find a soft landing spot for Apollo 11.”
Smith and his wife, who’d been visiting Ocean City since 1980, bought a house in Ocean Pines when he retired and moved here full time 12 years ago. While he’s lived all over the country, Smith said he felt the Ocean City area was ideal.
“There are good restaurants, good entertainment and you’re close to everything,” he said, adding that Ocean Pines has been on lists as one of the best places to live and Berlin was named America’s Coolest Small Town. “I just love everything about it.”
Though retirement was nice, Smith said when his wife started going to the pool every day, he needed something to do. Thinking of his engineering background, he applied for maintenance positions at several buildings in Ocean City. He was offered positions at all of them.
“I took this one because it sounded the best,” he said,
That was seven years ago. In the time since, Smith has developed a rapport with Summer Beach residents and the respect of management.
“He’s my ace in the hole,” said Diana Whittington, the building manager.
She’s been there 25 years and remembers hiring Smith and another senior at the same time.
“With age comes loyalty and responsibility,” she said. “That’s a big thing.”
He says his engineering background also comes into play.
“It’s good for working around here and figuring problems out,” he said.
Smith’s wife passed away a few years ago but he continues to make the 15-miunte drive into work six days a week.
“The work is good,” he said. “It keeps me going. It keeps the blood circulating.”
He added that because he only worked five hours a day, he had plenty of free time in the afternoons to relax and keep up with friends on social media. Smith said that when he went for his last physical, his doctor was amazed at his good health. While Smith attributes that primarily to exercise and good nutrition, he also credits a cold Corona after work and a shot of bourbon when he goes to bed.
“Stay away from stress,” he said. “I think that’s what’s helped me the most. Nothing worries me.”