Archived Story

Albert Lea’s sweetheart turns 100

Published 5:11pm Saturday, February 9, 2013

Albert Lea’s first Homecoming queen turns 100 on Thursday, a fitting day for the town’s sweetheart since it’s Valentine’s Day.

Gladys Reese will celebrate her 100th birthday with a party today. Her family planned the celebration that will be held in the common area at Reese’s home at Bancroft Creek Estates. The centenarian lives alone in an apartment in the building.

“I’m very lucky,” Reese said.

Reese’s granddaughter Karri Reese visits her most days, but otherwise the 100-year-old mostly takes care of herself.

“I behave myself real well,” Reese said with a laugh.

Reese moved into the apartment in 2007, after moving back to Albert Lea after 50 years away. She grew up in Albert Lea, then moved with her husband away from the city in 1957. She thought she’d come back to be closer to family and friends.

“It was always a home base,” Reese said.

She thought she’d see old friends after moving back to Albert Lea but found that many had unfortunately already passed away. She said while laughing that “getting old isn’t all fun,” but she likes to stay upbeat. It helps that she has a large family.

Reese and her husband, Frank, who died in 1994, had three sons who all married. Now there are also 14 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.

And being crowned the town’s first-ever Homecoming queen in 1932 is partially how she met her husband, who was 10 years her senior. In that year the Homecoming queen contest was citywide, so anyone who bought a ticket to the game could vote. Votes could be cast at First National Bank, where Frank worked.

“I thought he had money,” Reese said with a smile. “That’s my favorite joke!”

The Albert Lea Evening Tribune also kept a running tally of the votes; a Nov. 10, 1932, edition showed 27 young women vying for the title. Reese said she was somewhat well-known in the community because she worked the candy and ice cream counter at the downtown Woolworth location.

“It was kind of a meeting place, especially for farmers,” Reese said.

Since it was during the Depression, she was lucky to even have a job, even if it was just an after-school gig, Reese said.

 

She also belonged to various clubs in town, which helped with her popularity in the contest for Homecoming queen.

And while that was 82 years ago, Reese remembers it well. She said she thinks what has kept her healthy is her good nutrition and that she used to walk a lot.

“I’ve always eaten balanced meals,” Reese said. “A good diet makes a lot of difference.”

Some of it may be having good genes. She said her dad was an immigrant from Sweden, and her mother was French and a few other nationalities. Her favorite food, lefse with jelly, somewhat reveals her Swedish roots.

But there have been some health problems in her 100 years, like when she had breast cancer about 10 years ago. After treatment she has been declared cancer-free. She still gets to do many of the things she enjoys like gossiping over coffee with her granddaughter. She’s also an avid reader.

“It’s been a good life, so I’m happy,” Reese said.

Her family has planned a birthday party in her honor, and anyone is welcome to attend. The celebration will be from 2 to 4 p.m. today at Bancroft Creek Estates. The family said gifts aren’t necessary.