Gladys Forrester marks 100th birthday Aug. 9
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
SEVEN POINTS–Few of us make it to 100 years, and fewer yet are living independently. Gladys Forrester has not only accomplished all that, but she still drives, keeps an active schedule and in between operates a clothing store and alteration business. She makes 100 years on Aug. 9.
She is passionate in her interests and pursuits and attributes her longevity to “God not being ready to call her home, yet.” She’s worked out most her life issues over the years and holds one minor regret. She said she would have liked to see more of the world. However, she also said, she loves home so much she probably couldn’t have borne being away from it as long as it would have taken to travel so far.
This Saturday, her family, consisting of five generations of nieces and nephews, are celebrating her remarkably long and active life with a private reception at the VFW Hall in Seven Points, where Gladys has been a Ladies Auxiliary member for many years. The evening before, the public is invited to celebrate her birthday with her at the hall. Her friends at the 49ers Senior Dance Club will be marking the event at their regular Thursday night dance.
“If I live to get through all these parties, I am going to haul off and do something else,” she joked.
The chiefest of her passions is her love of music, all kinds, but especially Country Western music.
Her love for music and dance has been with her since she was a little girl. “My mother said I was a dancing before I got here,” she laughed. She seldom misses an evening at the 49ers dance club, where for 11 years she was the drummer with the band.
The first major purchase Gladys made with her own hard-earned money was for a piano, and along the way she has received piano lessons. Today, arthritis prevents her from playing as much as she’d like to, but that’s OK; she can always put in a roll of music into her player piano and enjoy the vitality of the keys dancing on the keyboard while she imagines her fingers racing up and down the keys. In fact, in addition to the player piano, Gladys has her original piano purchase from her teens, two organs and a very special antique organ. Each instrument is ready to be played with music on the stand, a lamp waiting to be turned on and a seat at the ready.
She’s equally passionate about her collection of quality ready-to-wear clothing, which includes bathing suits by Catalina, Ann Cole and others. She also has a number of light and airy blouses sewn up from vintage jersey prints, an array of jeans, slacks and skirts, dresses for girls and flannel shirts for boys, all Texas made, she points out.
But she is most energetic when showing her collection of new, vintage baby clothes in sizes for babies from six months to 2 years old, for both boys and girls. The boys christening outfits are just angelic, as are the gowns for baby girls and all at unheard of prices.
Lake-area residents marking the birth of grandchildren are sure to find a welcome outfit for the new little one at the Rainbow Outlet.
When she retired from Neiman Marcus, as a tailor, 38 years ago, her husband built her the Rainbow Outlet, across the street from where Brookshire’s is now. She’s been operating it ever since, when you can catch her there, that is, mostly on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. The rest of the time, she is pursuing another one of her passions – playing 42.
The domino game begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays at the Senior Center at the Ballpark in Mabank, where Gladys plays and is free until 10 a.m. when tournament play begins for $4. One game is started before a break for lunch is called ($2) and then resumes again, right afterwards, ending around 3 p.m.
On Tuesdays, she enjoys playing Bingo at the center and Thursdays are her weekly appointment with the beauty shop, so she’ll look her best for dancing Thursday night at the 49ers Club.
Of course, Sunday you’ll find her at the Friendship Baptist Church, where her church family recently celebrated her 100th year. A niece and nephew come down every weekend to mow and keep up with Gladys’ 15 acres and to visit with their favorite aunt.
Gladys is also passionate about people. She easily answers questions from a customer about the whereabouts of people she knows and how they are getting on. She has also known love and was happily married for 55 years. “He was just perfect for me, so loving and sweet,” she said of her James. He died at the age of 80, just ten days after Gladys’ 90th birthday. “You can’t replace a perfect man,” she said.
“I’m never really lonely. I guess I’m happy,” she added. “I’m busy.”
One of the things she was busy with up until two years ago — when she had a hip replaced — was taking care of her 30-year neighbor and friend. Lester Ashmore now resides at the Canton Oaks Nursing Home. “He is doing great,” she said. After her husband’s passing Ashmore and Gladys got to do some Rving for about a year and got to see a lot of the country, which she enjoyed very much.
Gladys said she started earning a living, alongside her mother, at the age of 15, as a seamstress; finishing school at night. She never smoked or drank, but has attended lots of parties where both activities were available. She’s generally enjoyed good health, though had both knees replaced at the age of 80 and has decided to seek out her doctor for the pain she now feels in the hip that was replaced at the age of 98.
“I think you love everybody and your Good Lord will see you through,” she says of her long life. “That’s his promise. I depend on Him a lot. If it weren’t for the Good Lord, I wouldn’t be here. He’s my helper. He loves me. I live by His promises and He blesses me.”