by Jonathan Weaver
Reflecting on her 100th birthday yesterday afternoon, Gladys Leeman said she has learned a lot during her life so far.
And her closest family members said they have learned a lot from her.
The Kittanning Care Center resident told stories, jokes and even video chatted with her great-granddaughters yesterday afternoon during her birthday celebration.
“When you think back and you live long enough, there are so many things you can tell. You’d never believe the things I used to go out and do with the girls,” Leeman said. “It’s funny how life is.
“Boy, life is something else when you think back. Everybody has a story.”
Born in Arnold (Westmoreland County), Gladys is the last surviving member of her family, and Gladys’ daughter – Sarah Artman – is trying to find out the secret.
“I think just good genes – her mom lived til she was 86 and her dad until he was 92,” Artman said. “And, she doesn’t take any medicine – just vitamins; that’s all.”
Gladys’ grandson, Curt, also hopes to be the next family centenarian.
“She’s just amazing – I hope I have the same genes,” Curt said. “We’re all trying to figure out what she did so we can do the same thing.
“She said one of the things she has learned, and I follow this too, is (not to) worry about things we can’t change. Words to live by – she never really gets stressed out over stuff. Doesn’t worry about it – lets it go.
“Her side of the family – the Mitcheltree side – is strong.”
Gladys – who advocated against drinking or smoking due to her sister’s death – laughed off the notion of a secret to turning 100.
“I don’t have no reason how I did it –I just lived it, Gladys said.
“I’m going to be here forever,” she told her great-granddaughters.
When Gladys turned 17, she married George Leeman and the pair eventually raised a family – and a herd of cows – in Upper Burrell Township. The nearly-100 acre farm was in business for more than 40 years, Artman recalled.
“She was on a dairy farm and they delivered milk by bottles for years. Then they finally quit that and people came to the farm and filled gallon jugs,” Artman said. “A really hard worker.”
Curt – who now lives in Charlotte, N.C. – even has a milk jar from “Leeman Farms” on his desk.
“Reminds me of where I came from,” Curt said.
Artman and her husband, Jim, also now live on a farm in Bethel Township.
A trait Curt and his daughters Julia and Sophia can’t get away from are the musical genes Gladys passed on.
“They got together with all the neighbors on Saturday night in the house and recorded music. They played guitars and mandalins and neighbors just showed up with the guitars or to sing,” Artman recalled. “My dad would record 45’s – they did a lot of that.”
Including Sarah, Curt, Julia and Sophia, Gladys has 14 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.
County commissioners unanimously proclaimed yesterday “Gladys Leeman Day” in honor of the milestone.
Commissioner Chair Pat Fabian wished Gladys a ‘Happy Birthday’ in person yesterday afternoon and wished her “many, many more.”
“Gladys is a very sweet woman, enjoys life and has a positive attitude,” Fabian said.
Kittanning Care Center Activity Director Mary Turner said Gladys – the eldest-current Kittanning Care resident – participates in exercise classes, music activities and talks to her family regularly via telephone.
State Representative Jeff Pyle also presented Gladys with a state citation.