Mrs. Gladys Gaines-Falana recently turned 104, and her 14 living children, 50 grandchildren, 86 great-grandchildren, and 74 great-great-grandchildren all think she is the cat’s pajamas.
BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
LARGO – Can you imagine a loaf of bread costing .07 cents and a gallon of regular gas only .15 cents? Times have certainly changed compared to today’s bread prices, which are around $3 to $4 a loaf, and gas well over $3 per gallon.
Mrs. Gladys Gaines-Falana may not remember those prices, but she was around to experience them. She was born Oct. 23, 1917, in Flemington, Fla., and today, her mind is as sharp as it has ever been.
Mrs. Gladys has lived through two pandemics, the 1918 influenza pandemic and, of course, COVID-19. She has seen 19 United States presidents, including Barack Obama, the first African- American president. On her 97th birthday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle sent her a birthday letter while still in office.
Her family members feel that she is loving, kind, funny, full of life, and supportive of her entire family.
“When I think back on a favorite memory of my mother, my family took her on a trip back to Flemington, where she was able to reminisce about her childhood and events from the past,” said Linda, her youngest daughter. “I marveled at how quickly she was able to recall where people stayed and where buildings used to be. She even knew what turns and exits to take to get to her old family homes. It was amazing.”
Mrs. Gladys moved from Flemington in 1961 and has lived in Largo for the past 60 years. She was married to the late Lucius C. Falana for 65 years until his death in 2002. She has 14 living children and two deceased, 50 grandchildren, 86 great-grandchildren, and 74 great-great-grandchildren.
She loves family gatherings and would prepare home-cooked meals for her children and grandchildren. They would often have big Sunday dinners at her home. To keep the family connected, she and her late husband hosted annual family reunions at Ridgecrest Park in Largo, Ocala, and St. Petersburg for more than 40 years. She values legacy and memories.
One of her son Darrell’s favorite memories of his mother happened during Christmastime. Mrs. Gladys would always give her daughters and daughters-in-laws perfume and her sons and sons-in-laws one pair of white socks as gifts.
In the past, each pair of socks would be neatly wrapped in beautiful holiday wrapping paper. However, as she got older and the number of male family members got larger, Mrs. Gladys would buy large packages of socks and just hand them out to the menfolk at Christmas. The entire family would always laugh because, for years, the males would walk into the house on Christmas day and say, “I came to get my socks.”
Mrs. Gladys is quite the accomplished seamstress. She loved making curtains, pillow covers, and clothing for her daughters.
“My mother is a great mother! Every Easter she would make my twin, Yvonne Smith, and I Easter dresses and then dress us up really pretty,” shared Yvette Pendleton. “She sacrificed a lot for us, being that we are such a large family. We are blessed to have her at 104 and still in her right mind.”
Mrs. Glady’s seamstress prowess reached into several generations. She once made one of her granddaughter’s wedding gown — what an honor and memory to have of your grandmother.
She is also an accomplished piano player and taught several of her boys to play piano as well. She is an avid sports fan and still enjoys watching games on television.
Mrs. Gladys’ family believes that it is important to celebrate their matriarch’s life and show her that they appreciate everything she’s done.
Her oldest daughter is thankful that her mother made sure that she could cook. “At 14 years old, I had to cook Sunday and daily dinners for the family to eat,” said Doris Bostic.
Her son, Major Roland Falana, USMC Ret., recalls visiting last summer and watching with amazement as his 103-year-old mother gracefully gave a piano lesson to his granddaughter, Kybrielle. It reminded him of the many lessons he received as a youth, which influenced him to major in music education.
For the Falana family, it is important not to forget the lessons of their queen. At 104, Mrs. Gladys has generations of offspring loving and adoring her. What a blessing it is for her family to still have her at this age.