If you look up the word 'grace' in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Mary Gladys Sams.
At 104 years young, Ms. Gladys Sams is the embodiment of grace. This is evident in the way she lives her life. Still capable of living alone, Gladys currently resides in a senior retirement community in Forest City and is staying busy doing God's work. Children she will never meet; disadvantaged children from all across our planet, are on her mind and in her heart as she sews. She has mastered the art of turning ordinary pillow cases into beautiful dresses that are sent to young girls in Africa and South America. Hundreds of dresses, maybe even a thousand altogether, have been lovingly crafted for children she will never have the pleasure to know. "For the small, and for the tall" replied Ms. Sams when asked who she makes the dresses for. She hasn't forgotten the little boys either. She has made hundreds of small stuffed puppies that are ideal for them as well.
Her 'labor of love' hasn't gone unnoticed. She won't tell how many times she has been honored for her work. She is humble, but, there are plaques inscribed with her name adorning the walls of her lovely home paying tribute to the hours upon hours of time she has devoted to enriching the lives of children world wide.
Born in Dewey Rose, Georgia, in 1913, Ms. Sams has lived in seven southern states during her lifetime. Before moving to Forest City from Greenwood, SC, Gladys was an active member of Piedmont Agency on Aging where she also served on the Board of Directors. Participating in "Senior Olympics" has added another sixteen plaques to her vast collection. Frisbee Golf and Fly Rod Casting are apparently natural talents Gladys possesses along with her sewing, tatting, knitting, and crocheting.
Seemingly unlimited in her creative abilities, Gladys also makes amazing necklaces out of church bulletins. You read that right, church bulletins. "You cut them into small triangles," says Gladys, "and then roll them around a tooth pick, adding glue as you go. Once it is dry, remove the toothpick, and you have space for the cord." Having taught crafting classes for other seniors, Gladys is always willing to help.
When Gladys isn't crafting, she enjoys spending time with her neighbors. Her grandson, Bobby Conner, and his wife, Sharon, tell us, "They are like a small village there in the cul-de-sac... Each of them doing little special things for one another. Stan, across the street, really looks after all the widows. The group of them, and others in the villas there, go out to eat together every couple of weeks.... Mamaw" as Bobby calls her, "really enjoys sitting on the porch with her neighbors Judy, Jean, and Geraldine."
Occasionally, Gladys attends church with Bobby and Sharon at Concord Baptist Church in Bostic. There, in conjunction with their WMU, Gladys is continuously contributing to their missions program by donating the dresses, dolls and puppies, all uniquely crafted one-of-a-kind treasures that will make their way around the globe in shoe boxes filled with love. There's no telling how many lives she has touched.
While visiting with Gladys, one might be so lucky to hear her charming laughter as she recalls the time she worked with her husband at a meat processing facility. Brought in temporarily to help out, Gladys found herself perched up high on a platform inspecting and grading the meats as they were transported through the process. She tells of the time when a large hog escaped his enclosure to run chaotically through the building causing all the employees to flee in different directions, all while she was able to enjoy the 'show' up there in her safe space. And, if that doesn't get you chuckling along with her, she'll tell you about the time the bull made his escape as well.
What an amazing life Mary Gladys Sams has lived, so far! In all of these years, one thing is sure, she has lived it full of love and grace. Her sense of humor, creativity, generosity and talent have been enjoyed by many and she continues, to this day, to get up each morning to do something for someone else. She is beautiful, inside and out, and the trophy and crown she received when named "Miss Greenwood Senior" proves it.
When asked what her secret to such a long life is, without hesitation, she responds, "Ask Jesus!" One might conclude that 'grace' is the key.