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Obituraries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 11, 2007

Gladys Spencer Covington

By James G. Meade

Unfortunately, rumors of the passing of Gladys S. Covington are no longer exaggerated.

Born Gladys Marie Spencer in the small town of Genesee, Pa., on Jan 15, 1920, to Fordyce and Effie Benjamin Spencer, Mrs. Covington achieved a certain acclaim as a jitterbug dancer in the Big Band era. Discouraged because of her size from playing basketball at Hornell High School, she instead expressed her agility on the dance floor. "I was a skinny stick of a thing," she said later, "but I could follow."

According to various oral reports, the young people used to clear the dance floor at Sodus Point on Lake Ontario to watch her dance with a certain handsome, energetic fellow from Clyde, NY— Henry Ladue Meade Jr. She married him on New Year’s Day in 1941 (over the objections of her stern father), and with him bore four children — Barbara, James, Janet, and Vicki.
She earned undying gratitude from them all in the 1950’s and ’60’s for her skills as a homemaker. "When the kids eating their school cafeteria lunches saw me with my leftover meatloaf sandwich and scalloped potatoes, they couldn’t hide their envy," said her daughter, Barbara.

When Henry Meade died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1961, leaving her with four school-aged children, she took an entry-level job with the New York Telephone Company, where she stayed until 1966 when, she would say, "I married the boss." The boss was Henry Charles Gates, statewide head of the Directory Division in Menands, N.Y.

After the children were grown, she lived in retirement with Mr. Gates on Cape Cod for a decade, watching birds on Nausett Beach, playing cribbage, and picking the winners in Sunday football games. (Meanwhile, an achievement for which she deserves much credit, each one of her four children, after graduating from Guilderland High School, went to college and went on to earn at least a master’s degree.)

When Mr. Gates died from a heart attack in 1978, she had multiple offers of marriage (as she did after her first husband’s death) and selected retired Naval Officer John R. Covington, who for more than 25 years led her on a worldwide journey on cruise ships. She visited nearly 100 countries, including China and the Amazon, and spent time in every state in the union, while maintaining a home in Ocala, Fla.

In the meantime, her family continued to grow, expanding to 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren (and counting), plus step descendents from her marriages.

For her final three years, she lived in independent-living and assisted living quarters in Annandale, Va., near two of her three daughters. She suffered memory loss. Congestive heart failure led to her death.

But she kept a gift for the fast quip right up until the end and, still agile for most of that time, was known in her facility as "the woman who walks." Sometimes, on her walks, she would pause and chat with the male residents, who enjoyed her company.

If there is one thing she would want her family and friends to know in her time of transition, it is simply, as she often said, "I was a happy woman." And could she ever dance!

Burial of her ashes will be in Memory’s Garden in Colonie, next to her first husband. A private memorial service for friends and family will be held in Albany. Details are pending. Friends may send remembrances to words@lisco.com or care of Barbara Meade, 6831, Alpine Dr., Annandale, VA 22003. Memorial contributions may be made to charities for breast cancer or Alzheimer’s.

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