102-Year-Old Dynamo

Photo Courtesy of WZZM-TV
Photo Courtesy of WZZM-TV

By: Dorothy Simon-Tibbe


Gladys Misiewicz ran a 5k race at the ripe, young age of 100 in a benefit of Oasis of Hope Center, sponsored by Grand Valley medical students. She is now 102, and still running up and down the many stairs of the six building complex of Villa Maria Senior Living Center on Walker Ave.


This petite lady looks more like a 75-year-old as she runs through the building with no cane, no walker, nor any other type of aid. She exercises daily in her room and in the Physical Therapy Department. Her doctor comes to her apartment in the Villa Maria complex once a month to check her general health, which is excellent except for glaucoma. No grass grows under this plus-two centenarian’s feet!


Gladys was born as a part of the Dubis family in East Chicago on October 31, 1913. One of her earliest memories was the noisy celebration of Armistice Day, which frightened her so badly she hid under the kitchen table. That same day, her mother gave birth to her brother Stan, so she was unavailable to calm little Gladys’ fears.


The Dubis family moved to Hammond, Indiana, and then made their way north to the Twin Lake area near Muskegon, Michigan. While in Michigan, they lived on a farm, with no heat source except a wood burning kitchen range, one bedroom, and a path to the out-house. Her father worked in Grand Rapids, only coming home every two weeks.


Both of Gladys’ parents were Polish immigrants. She taught her father to read and write so he could attain citizenship and vote. Since her mother became a U.S. citizen when her husband’s paper were processed, she never learned to speak English well and she couldn’t read or write. The family spoke Polish within the home,


St. Adalbert’s Catholic Church became home for the Dubis family by the time Gladys began school, where she attended through the eighth grade.


Her family sustained themselves during the Depression Years by doing piece work for the String Factory by inserting string through paper tags to mark prices on goods for sale. The entire family of six children, with their parents, sat at their kitchen table each evening to string the tags. Once the tags were completed, they were delivered to the factory the next day and a new supply was picked up in their little wagon.


Mrs. Dubis worked as a dishwasher in a local restaurant where she was given left over food for her family when it was available.


Gladys began high school at Union, but she did not fit in with the life style and teaching methods of public school. So, she quit there and went to Davis Tech.


By obtaining a work permit at age 16, she was able to work at Steketee’s Department Store. While working at Steketee’s, a former teacher gifted her with the ‘fortune of $500′ to be used to go to college. Before college, she had to complete her high school courses, which she did with several classes each morning until her graduation at age 22.


Her family never considered education important, and none of her family attended her graduation.


Gladys attended her first year of college at Catholic Junior College, now called Aquinas College. While there, she played the roll of a very grumpy Mother Superior performed at Ladies Literary Club. Every minute of practice, rehearsal, and performance was cherished.


The following year, Gladys moved on to Western State Teacher’s College to follow her dream path as a teacher. Unfortunately, that dream never materialized because of a call from home; “Come home immediately. Your mother is very sick and in the hospital having surgery. We need you to take care of the house and children.”


There was no hesitation to answer the urgent call to aid her family, but as soon as her mother’s health returned, her dad demanded she pay rent or move out.


She chose to move out to a farm that had 800 Leghorn chickens. In exchange for room and board, she cleaned the chicken house each morning, gathered eggs, and then delivered the eggs to local hospitals before gong to work as a secretary in a law firm.


By December of 1941, Gladys became the Insurance Adjuster for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Chicago. She married Army Engineer Chester Misiewicz in May of 1945. He was career Army for 23 years, while Gladys remained stateside performing various nursing duties and raising her three children – Kevin, now 70, Karen, age 67, and Lynee, age 64 – and continuing her self-taught scheduled learning and exercise.


Gladys’ father was later diagnosed with leukemia, and once again she gave up home and hearth to move closer to care for her family. She moved with her three small children to live with her in-laws, who lived within a mile of her ailing father. She would walk over each day to bathe and care for him, and would sit beside his bed for hours just to be close and reassure him that she cared.


This ‘young’, 102-year-old dynamo radiates energy, love, and happiness along with a sharp, intelligent mind. She assists at Mass in the Villa Chapel, lights Altar candles, and leads the singing with a clear and pleasant voice. She is an avid reader, especially of historical and medical topics, and enjoys line dancing. She enjoys listening to lectures by noted doctors, especially Dr. Sinja Gupta and Fareed Sakaria. Her favorite fiction author is Nicholas Sparks.


“As long as I can remember, I have always believed that Jesus was close, guiding me, blessing me with good mental and physical health,” remarks Gladys as she looks back over a century of life. “Today is the most important day of my life. I must make the most of it. With my daily thanks, I use these blessing to influence and help others to make the most of their day.”


Gladys has a wonderful attitude on life, which may be the secret to her longevity. She is content in her space in this world