Tributes to Gladys
Gladys Clarke, possibly the oldest Baptist in the country, has died aged 108.
Gladys attended Abbey Centre Baptist Church in Northampton for much of her life. A service celebrating her life followed by a crematorium took place last Tuesday (19 March).
She had three children, Ken, 86, Norman, 83 and Susan, 68, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
'She loved the Abbey Centre,' said Norman, ' and she was a Baptist through and through. She joined in everything that was going on.
'She would spend Christmas with one of us (her sons), until she decided she would spend them at the Abbey Centre. She preferred it there - there were many friends.'
He added, 'She was a determined woman. 'When people asked her what was the secret, she would say, "I'm still trying to find out."'
Born in Long Buckby, she married husband Bob aged 21. He worked on the railways and they settled in Northampton after working in Oxfordshire. They became members of Abbey Road Baptist Chapel, and when this closed they went to the new building, the Abbey Centre.
When Bob died in 1986 Gladys continued to live independently, only moving into a nursing home when she was 104.
Norman said her health was good until about 18 months ago, and that right until the end she would see her daughter on Tuesdays, and each of her sons on Wednesdays and Thursday. She always had several visitors. Current minister at the Abbey Centre, the Revd Gareth Shepherd, was a regular visitor.
The Revd Ted Hale, a former minister at the Abbey Centre, and knew Gladys well, describing her as 'a remarkable lady'. 'She lived to be 108 and almost to the end retained a special kind of down to earth dignity,' he said.
'If one thing should be said above all about Gladys it would be that she had a deep faith. This was not at all the same thing as certainty, because Gladys had and would ask deep and sometimes unanswerable questions about life's complications and death's mysteries.
'But her life-time of faithful worship in Long Buckby Baptist Chapel as a child and then in Abbey Road-cum-Abbey Centre Baptist Church in Northampton gave her spiritual roots which went deep, providing an anchor for her soul.
'Gladys was rightly concerned about some people, especially her daughter Susan who has had learning difficulties. 'But it was a real joy, and a very moving, living parable, when some years ago mother and daughter were received into church membership together.'
He added, 'It might seem odd to also record that at her 100th birthday party Gladys danced the Hokey Cokey - but Jesus criticised some people because they knew neither how to mourn or to have a party. Gladys knew how to do both. To be in her company was to come close to the spirit of God in Jesus - a real privilege.'
Oldest son Ken told the local newspaper, 'My mum looked after the whole family. Not many children get the chance to meet their great-great-grandmother, so our family were lucky.
“My mum will be missed by all of us.'