Head nurse. American Legion Auxiliary president. Hospital volunteer. Tavernkeeper. Traveler. Church leader. Mother of five.
How did Gladys Patrick fit it all into one life?
“I was a great delegator,” she says today.
Gladys was born in Minersville, in Pennsylvania’s anthracite region where her father was a miner. The oldest of five siblings, her mother died when Gladys was 13. By then, the family was living in Philadelphia, where her father supported the war effort working for the Budd Company, a metal fabricator.
At their mother’s death, the children were separated for a time but then reunited with their father. As the eldest, Gladys was the caretaker, cooking and doing the laundry. Soon, however, the children went to an Episcopal orphanage in Jonestown, Pennsylvania. They lived like family with house parents on a farm with the girls learning such things as canning.
“One day, somebody didn’t turn on the gauge on the steamer, and the red beets exploded,” she remembers. “To this day, I can still see that red beet juice all over the ceiling.”
The home offered Gladys a loving shelter. Every day, she walked to school, where she and her fellow “Home Kids,” as the orphanage residents were known, excelled.
“It was a great three years,” she says. “We were so blessed.”
After graduation, someone suggested that Gladys would be a good nurse, so she got her RN at Polyclinic Hospital’s school in Harrisburg. Then came marriage and her first three children; then she and her husband built a home outside of Harrisburg.
“I was pregnant and hammering nails,” she says. She continued working part-time in nursing. She was also active in the local and state American Legion Auxiliary, starting such efforts as her Post’s poppy program for Veterans’ Day.
After she and her first husband divorced, she remarried and embarked on a new phase – running restaurants. She and her husband, Gerald Patrick, bought a Steelton-area restaurant they named Pat’s Grill (now the well-known Herby’s El Mexicano). She was active in the Tri-County Tavern Association, once earning “Tavern Owner of the Year” honors.
Through this, she served as Polyclinic Hospital’s head nurse, remained active in the Legion, and had two more children. The Patricks owned Pat’s Grill for five years. Then, Gladys was attending a seminar when an announcement over the loudspeaker said she had a phone call. She worried that something happened to one of her children, but instead, Gerry told her he bought a restaurant near Hershey. She thought “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
They owned Patrick’s Hotel for 16 years. They sold it in 1983 and decided to move to Arizona, on one condition. Gladys insisted they spend summers back home in Pennsylvania, where she could see her grandchildren grow.
They moved to Lake Havasu, Arizona, home to the London Bridge that once spanned the River Thames. With family constantly visiting, their home became known as “Patrick’s West.” The couple also embarked on a period of travel that took them to national parks, Hawaii, Venezuela, Ireland, Monte Carlo, Switzerland, and Puerto Rico, where avid golfer Gerry often played the links.
“I’d love to go back to Monte Carlo, but you can’t afford it,” Gladys says.
Gladys grew a garden of vegetables and flowers. She volunteered for golf tournaments and at the local hospital emergency room. She helped run her church’s kitchen and chaired its 100th-anniversary event, making sure that diners ate in style from real china, with real silverware.
After 47 years of marriage, Gerry died from the effects of a stroke, and Gladys moved to Las Vegas, to be near some of her children. But then a granddaughter asked, “Grandma, what really is home?” Gladys knew the answer.
“I’m originally from Pennsylvania,” she says. “I lived here all my life. This always is home.”
The first time Gladys and her family toured Homeland, her great-granddaughter said, “Grandma, when I get old, I’m going to live here.” She celebrated her 91st birthday with family – she now has 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren – at the Homeland Diner, a 1950s-style eatery where she wore a poodle skirt. She keeps busy with penny-ante poker, bingo, and exercise classes and ends her days with a glass of red wine before going to bed.
“I’ve had a good life,” she says. “I’m very grateful. God’s given me the opportunity to do what I’m doing.”
And when people ask for the secret of her longevity, she has a three-part answer.
“Number one: The awesome God,” she says. “Number two: My phenomenal, outstanding, loving family. And three: Red wine.”