Rose Geraldine Bailey Glandorf was born in Rome, Georgia, on Valentine’s Day, 1918, and died 96 years later on Valentine’s Day, 2014, in Salem, Oregon. Gerry, as she was known, was famous for telling stories with one hand gently on the truth; she favored dramatic effect over absolute accuracy. But the beginning and end of her life had a symmetry that was dramatic and true.
Growing up in small-town southern Rome, everyone knew someone who had fought in the Civil War. Gerry told stories about taking elocution lessons from Confederate widows in need of income. There were stories about the mountain her family once owned but lost in a poker game. And darker stories, too. Late one night, horse-led Ku Klux Klanners rode down Main Street with uplifted torches, while she, just seven, watched, horrified.
Like so many of the young women in the area, she auditioned for the role of Scarlett O’Hara when Gone With The Wind was casting. Maybe she would have stayed in Atlanta if she’d beaten out Vivien Leigh. Instead, at the ancient age of 25, she met a Navy pilot on a blind date. He was both a Yankee and a Catholic — two solid blows against any stable union — but, struck with love, she converted and married him.
Life after that was a series of resilient moves, following her husband’s career, farther and farther away from Georgia — to Ohio, Connecticut, California, and eventually, Oregon. But wherever Gerry went, her Southern self went, too; a charming companion. She practiced daily point and stretch exercises to maintain a lady’s posture.
She had the values of a lynchpin of society, and raised four children to have the same. Her son used to rise when his name was called in class — to the shock of his middle-school colleagues in Connecticut, and probably his teacher, too. She read grammar books, then drilled her children in Latin roots. Though she couldn’t cook, she loved entertaining, and her husband loyally swallowed her clam chowder with Tabasco sauce.
Gerry had an enviable ability to commentate without sounding critical. Maybe it was the accent. “Lordy,” she would drawl about someone she disapproved of, “that mutton is dressed like lamb.” And she loved to “retire” to her bed, a retirement which had nothing to do with sleeping. The bed was her office, where she did her most productive reading and letter writing.
For many years, she yearned after a lifestyle of affluence and luxury — a Rhett Butler lifestyle — until a bout with cancer in middle age caused her to appreciate her straightforward life and those in it freshly. This was her chosen world, and in the end her cherished one. She never asked to return to Georgia.
Did you know Rose Glandorf? Share your memories in the comments section.