MONROE – A century might seem like a long time to some people, but for Gladys Hall the years have flown by.
Hall celebrated her 100th birthday Monday, Nov. 5, at Bethel United Methodist Church in Monroe, where she’s been a faithful member for the past several years. Friends, family and fellow church members showed up for a dinner honoring the “birthday girl” and celebrating her 100 years and the legacy she’s created over the course of her life thus far.
Hall made her grand debut on Nov. 5, 1912, in the middle of the election that put President Woodrow Wilson in office. She was “born and raised” in New Orleans, where she lived until the mid-2000s.
One of five girls, Hall grew up attending McDonogh 35, which was the only black public high school in New Orleans at the time, and graduated in 1931. After completing school, she spent 45 years working at Hospel Brothers Clothing Store where she manufactured various clothing items including men’s suits. She retired in 1976.
Throughout the years, music has been one of the things Hall enjoys most about life, and she always loved attending balls and dances. Hall’s home in New Orleans was in close proximity to some of the special events that the city is known for, such as Mardi Gras parades and jazz funerals, and she and her friends and family would often sit on the steps outside her home, listening to the music as the bands passed by the neighborhood.
Church has been a central part of Hall’s life ever since she can remember.
“I’m Methodist,” Hall said proudly, adding that she was a member of the same Methodist church for 75 years. She never had any plans to move, but the devastation from Hurricane Katrina drove her away from her hometown and forced her to relocate to Union County, where she lives with her niece.
Although she said it was hard to leave after the hurricane and to see the destruction the storm caused to the only hometown she’d ever known, Hall doesn’t like to concentrate too much on the negative.
“I’ve had a lot of bad days, but I’ve had a lot of good days,” she said. “My good days have outnumbered my bad days.”
After moving, Hall began to search for a new church and found Bethel United Methodist. Ever since she started attending, she’s been a faithful churchgoer and an active member.
“She’s there every Sunday and she sits right down at the front,” Rev. Doug Harr, Bethel’s senior pastor, said.
Her family is pleased she’s been able to find somewhere she can go to continue practicing her faith, which she said has been the cornerstone of her life.
“I’m glad she found a place to go to church, because she was a churchgoer in New Orleans, and I’m glad she found a place that welcomed her so warmly,” said Sigrid Valteau, one of Halls’ close friends from New Orleans.
These days, Hall’s favorite pastimes are working with puzzles, doing word searches, reading the newspaper and studying her Bible. Hall doesn’t have any children of her own and never married, but she has a handful of friends and extended family she enjoys spending time with. She also loves getting to watch her great-great niece dance.
For someone who’s 100 years old, Hall said she’s in very good health and feels great, adding that she only goes to the doctor once a year for a routine annual check-up.
So what’s her secret?
“My prayers,” she said. “I pray a lot.”