Remembering Gladys

I, and my comrades, are reaching an age when those individuals we looked up to in life, those who lit our path, are departing this world. It is an inevitable place we find ourselves in but one that never comes with ease, without a silent plea that it might be different. Gladys Kerr was one of those people who touched everyone’s life for those of us who ate lunch in the cafeteria of Fort Frances High School during her “reign”. I think I speak for all of us when I express my gratitude for her kindness and her easy smile and friendly cheer while she dished out chili and the daily specials. She smiled at every single face that stood before her and often exchanged a few words of greeting before we continued on with our trays. We had our favourites – hot dogs with mustard, persian rolls, fudgicles, and milk for a dime. She was for so many of us a bright spot in an ordinary day, the feeling of being visible and cared for. She could change the outcome of our day by that brief encounter during lunch period.

Gladys was of a generation that accepted that life can be hard, can come with disappointment as easily as it comes with moments of great joy, and she accepted both with humble ease. She could find something to laugh about in almost every situation and her laugh was real and infectious and immediate. She made a mean chocolate chip cookie.

Gladys was keen for fun and adventure. She was always up for anything, even when her mobility became challenging, and a cane was required. She swung a golf club with determined effort and cheered on the Blue Jays and watched curling with fervour. She accepted moving from her own home into Flinders Apartments with but a few tears, having to let go of all the memories her family shared on Fourth Street West. She made the best of every situation, without complaint, without outward disappointment.

Each of us can ask what we will be remembered for, but we have no idea, not really. We don’t often know whose life we touched, how we were regarded, if we were judged. Gladys didn’t worry about such things. She gave the best of herself and how others received her was of no consequence in how she went about her day.

Perhaps what I remember most about Gladys was the connection between she and her siblings and how they loved to gather for coffee, everyone laughing and remembering. Those who live in Fort Frances will recall their regular gatherings at various coffee spots. The sight of them pulled up to a table warmed my heart through and through. They loved one another for their shared history and for their current stories. And they laughed.