Surrounded by a loving extended family, longtime Apalachicola resident Gladys Beaman marked her 100th birthday Saturday at The Bridge at St. Joe.
Her great grandson Bobby Wintons, Jr., his nanny when he was just 2 weeks old, accompanied on the piano a sing along of some of Mother Beaman’s favorite songs.
His mother, Temolynn Wintons, whose middle name Gladine is a combination of her grandmother’s first and middle names, coordinated the century birthday celebration, expressing gratitude for the beautiful sunshiny day and to all of the people who came to share memories and songs and all those from across the nation who helped celebrate this milestone occasion.
Born Gladys Pauline Breedlove on Aug. 13, 1916 in Apalachicola to parents James and Ella Mitchell Breedlove, Gladys celebrated her birthday on the 14th for over 50 years because she was born on a Friday and her daddy did not want her to mark the occasion on Friday the 13th.
She is the oldest of six children - five sisters, including Ella Breedlone Speed, 95, of Apalachicola, who attended the celebration, and Aldonia, Ersie and Dorothy, all deceased; and one brother, James Jr. ”Jimmy,” deceased.
She attended school and graduated from Dunbar High School, where she was a skillful basketball player and song lyric soprano in the chorus.
She married Cleophas Croom in the late ‘30s and from that union, there were four children: Cleophas “Sonny” (Virginia), John Quincy (Betty), Shirley Louise (Alan), and Raymond James, deceased. Presently, she has eight grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren. She has five Godchildren.
In 1945 the family moved to New York, where she worked in the medical field in nursing. Gladys enjoyed worshiping at the St. Paul Disciples of Christ Church as a lead singer and founded the Youth for Christ Choir.
In the early ‘60s she married Mr. Henry Beaman and in the early 70s they returned to Apalachicola, where she helped care for her mother, who passed in 1973.
Over the years, Beaman worked with the Franklin County School Cafeteria, and as crossing guard and custodian. Retirement years found her taking her daily walk, working and helping at Crooms and Love Center Christian Academy.
Known for her frozen cups and homemade ice cream, Mother Beaman sweetly made her impact on the Apalachicola Hill Community. Throughout the years she diligently served at her home church, The Holiness Church of the Living God, where she shared her talents in various facets of the ministry and her love for young people by forming the Children of the Light and Youth for Christ choirs. Later she formed The Gospel Chorus for ages 50 and above.
Memories of a special woman
Ella Speed, Beaman’s 95-year-old sister, reminisced on the Breedlove family’s five sisters, three of whom have passed away. “We’re both ready to go to heaven, but I guess we’ll have to stay here until the Lord gets ready for us to come on home!” said Speed.
Beaman’s daughter, Shirley O’Neal shared how her mother gave her words of wisdom to live by, including how one day, when O’Neal was moping and crying about a situation the young married woman with four small children found herself in, her mother advised her not to cry so much.
“’One day you’re gonna want to look good,’” O’Neal recalled her mother saying to her. “And sure enough, that one day came, so that advice she gave me, I still share with other young ladies today.”
Robert Davis shared how Mother Beaman made him feel like he could do anything, even drive at an early age. “She would have me go here and there, she didn’t ask me did I have a license. I don’t even know if I did or not at the time,” he said. “She made me think I could play the piano and so I did, even when I picked up playing the guitar, she said ‘you can play it’ so I did that too.”
Alma Pugh said Mother Beaman allowed her at a young age to sing in the adult gospel choir. “I was the youngest, but I still love those songs today,” she said.
Niece Gayle Speed-Ringo told how Mother Beaman gave her a special watch for helping take care of her mother when she was younger. One of her caretakers Carolyn, remembers her comforting her by telling her “the reason I’m living is to pray for you and your children.
“I just cried, thanking God for her,” Carolyn said.
Dolores Croom recalled being at Mother Beaman’s 75th birthday celebration. “I really thought that was that was something, but being here today at her 100, I would have never imagined it,” she said. “I can hardly fathom it now, what a blessing!”
Asked whether she was looking forward to her own 100th birthday, great-granddaughter Raevyn, said “I’ll be good. I’ll be happy with what the Bible promises us, our three-score and ten!”
Sheila Martin shared how Beaman always referred to her. “When I walked into the room, she would always just say ‘There’s my oldest granddaughter.’ Sometimes, I would wonder if she even knew my real name ‘cause she never said it. So one day I asked her. Of course she said "Sheila Adele, my oldest granddaughter!"
Grandson-in-law Leonard Martin recalled how in the late 70s, when the other servers would tell them to “just keep the line moving,” cafeteria worker Mrs. Beaman would smile, and gently add that little extra to the plates of the students. “I was glad she was there, ‘cause I would be hungry!” he said.
Many would want to know the secret of her longevity, of course, it is God’s will for her life, but also her obedience through a low cholesterol diet (she made a practice of reading all the labels before eating anything!) and exercising (she loved to take her morning and evening strolls/struts).
“We would get home, she would read the labels again and if she found something she shouldn’t have, we would have to take it back to the store!” said Ellen Cain.
We think also Mother Beaman’s longevity is due to keeping a song in her heart and on her lips, because a merry heart does good like a medicine,