Advent Christian Village (ACV) member, Gladys Ezell celebrated her 99th birthday recently at ACV’s Dacier Manor. Gladys and her brother were raised by their widowed mother on the family farm in Mayo, Florida. After high school, she took her first job as the manager of the Dollar Store in Mayo where she made $1.00/day. However, it wasn’t long before this small-town girl was ready for some big city lights. Gladys moved to Tallahassee to take a job with Senator Croft in the State Capitol, but seeing the importance in education, this wouldn’t last long. Saving, saving, saving, she managed to put up enough money to go to college. With hope in her eye, Gladys moved to Jacksonville to attend Massachusetts Business College.
While attending school, she decided to make the trip by train to visit her brother who was stationed in Louisiana as an R.O. Hatcher State Guard with the Army. The train was full, which meant she would have to stand. A sailor noticed Gladys and offered her his seat. She accepted, and the handsome sailor stood all the way to New Orleans. There they went to find something to eat together on Canal Street, where he promised he would bring her back again one day. Laughing at such a bizarre statement, Gladys shook her head and went about her business. Little did she know that one year later, in 1944, she would marry that very sailor, James Cecil Harbor, at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL.
A few years passed and World War II ended, so the couple moved to his home in Shreveport, Louisiana, where Cecil had a job offer. This is the first experience Gladys had being a part of a large family. She reminisces on the great times they had together and mentions, “Cecil was one of 10 children. It was always like Christmas morning. All of them are very special to me.” Gladys worked for Cecil Brown Oil Company while continuing her education. In the 1950s, the couple moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Gladys found work at another oil company, Chiffon Oil Company, where she was the Office Manager, Secretary, and Treasurer for 25 years until Cecil’s death.
After she was widowed, Gladys’ brother insisted that she move back to Florida. She eventually did return to Jacksonville where she worked as a Kelly Girl. On occasional visits to Mayo, she crossed paths with an old childhood friend, Lloyd Ezell, who also happened to be widowed. Persistent about marrying her, Lloyd managed to convince Gladys to at least date him. After two years, they married and began traveling together.
Sadly, a few years later Gladys was widowed again. At that time, she began to look for volunteer opportunities. Being from nearby Mayo, she remembered visiting ACV as a child when her aunts and uncle were residents. She planned another visit during which she became a volunteer at the Village Lodge. After only one month as a volunteer, at the age of 75, she was offered a job there. Soon, she became an ACV member and moved on campus.
Gladys was an employee for 15 years until she stopped driving. She also loved volunteering at ACV’s retail shops, Riverside Gifts, and Twice Nice Furniture & More. She continued her weekly volunteer duties until just a few months ago.
Now a resident of Dacier Manor, ACV’s assisted living center, Gladys mentions that this is where she always told her family she wanted to be when she reached the point of needing assistance. She mentions how wonderful it is that everything came full circle and now she has the opportunity to live in the place she always admired. Throughout her years at ACV, from guest to volunteer, and from employee to member, Gladys’ huge heart has always made her a joy to be around.