Look on the Bright Side: Gladys Manion Celebrates 90 Years

HOMETOWN: Rushford, Minnesota

AGE: 90

FAMILY: Wed in 1946, Gladys and Marvin Manion were married for 62 years. The couple had three children—Stephen, Peggy and Gerald. Gladys now has five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with another due in February 2016.

EARLY DAYS: I was born in 1925 in Hart, Minnesota. My earliest memory is when I was about 3 years old. Someone came to our house taking pictures. That was unusual. I have a picture of myself then. I got to sit on my little red chair in the front yard, and my sister let me wear her beads. They were a long, long string. I remember how proud I was to wear my sister Lucille’s beads for that picture.

 FOOD LOVE: After we got married, Marv and I lived in Rushford. I worked in two restaurants until we got our own coffee shop. When you add it up, I worked in restaurants for about 40 years. I’ve always loved to cook, even when I was little. When I was about 10 years old, I perfected a one-egg cake. It was beautiful. 

TAKING A STAND: When Peggy was a baby, she got sick. I felt that I needed to go to work that day anyway. Marv called me at work to tell me that Peggy was getting worse, and he asked if I could come home to check on her. I told my boss I had to go home because my little girl was very ill. He said if I went home, I could just stay home because my job wouldn’t be there when I came back. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I replied, “That’s fine with me. I don’t have to come back.” In a couple of minutes, he apologized. He told me I could go. He didn’t want to lose me. 

A TIME FOR LAUGHTER: My mother, Nellie, and I had lots of good laughs together. One time, we were putting wallpaper on the kitchen ceiling. We set up a scaffolding, so we could reach up there. We started in the middle and worked our way out, putting up the paper as we went. It was heavy, heavy stuff. As we made it to the walls, the paper in the middle came down and fell on top of us. We were on the scaffolding, underneath that heavy wallpaper, and we got the giggles. We laughed and laughed. I’ve never forgotten that. I don’t know how, but we finally did get the wallpaper to stay up. 

HAPPY MEMORIES: We went to Texas in the winter for many years. They would have dances. Marv didn’t always go to those dances with me because he had a foot that sometimes bothered him. One particular night he did, and he loved to dance. I requested they play “Cab Driver,” our favorite song. We got up to dance, and the people cleared the floor for us. Just Marv and I were out there dancing together. It’s a special memory that makes me cry, but they are happy tears.

THE NEXT GENERATION: I dearly love my grandchildren, and the little great-grandchildren are so precious. That’s one of the pluses of getting old: You get to see children grow up.

A SUNNY OUTLOOK: I’m a happy person. At the restaurant, they called me “Smiles.” I’ve had my sad times, but I surprise myself by how I’ve been able to handle those things. I think maybe you get stronger over the years. How come I’ve lived to be 90? I think part of it is that I don’t carry a grudge, and I try not to dwell on the bad things. Sometimes you have to just let stuff go and look on the bright side. I’ve got a good life. 

Tracy Will is a freelance writer who lives and works in Rochester.