97-year-old inducted into Red Lion Hall of Fame

Alyssa Jackson, 505-5438/@AlyssaJacksonYD
  • Gladys Harrold, 97, will be inducted into the Red Lion Hall of Fame Friday evening.
  • Six generations of Harrold's family will be at the induction ceremony.
  • People can be nominated for their outstanding accomplishments.

Gladys Harrold, a 97-year-old woman originally from Red Lion, tells stories of surviving the Great Depression, hitchhiking to Ohio when she was 13 to get a Bible, traveling throughout Europe, retiring three times and becoming an artist at 74 years young. 

Red Lion Area Senior High School Leo Club Hall of Fame inductee Gladys Harrold, 97, currently living in Jefferson, Texas, is interviewed about her lifetime of accomplishments in Spry Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Her many accomplishments are what made her a perfect candidate for the Red Lion Area School District Hall of Fame, into which she is being inducted Friday evening. Harrold traveled from Jefferson, Texas, where she now lives in a house next to her daughter, Mary Castleman, to attend the ceremony. 

Her granddaughter, Sherry Jensen, traveled with her as well. The three of them are very close: Castleman cooks for Harrold and makes sure she takes her vitamins, and Jensen spends a lot of time with her grandmother watching movies on "late-night television," which Harrold boasts she can still stay up for, even though Castleman gently pointed out "late night" actually meant 8 p.m.

Gladys Harrold, 97, left, who lives in Jefferson, Texas, talks about her artwork during an interview Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Spry while her granddaughter Sherry Jensen, center, of Lantana, Texas, and daughter Mary Castleman, also of Jefferson, look on. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Harrold still has family in York County and is staying with relatives in York Township while in town for the induction ceremony. All in all, six generations of her family will attend the big event to support "Mammy" Harrold. 

The Red Lion Area School District Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who attended a public school in the district and have outstanding accomplishments related to their profession, occupation and services. Harrold was nominated by her great-granddaughter, Alisha Strayer. 

Harrold has lived an exciting life. Born in 1919, she graduated from Red Lion Area Senior High School 80 years ago. She started school when she was 4 because her parents didn't want her older sister to walk the mile to school alone. 

"You can't imagine what the Depression was like," Harrold said. Her daughter, her granddaughter and her sister-in-law Elma Briggs pointed out that it helped make her the thrifty and mindful person she still is today, such as when she washes out zip-close baggies to re-use them. 

"You mean cheap," Harrold quipped back, laughing. 

In high school, Harrold found a passion for art, eventually becoming the art editor for the yearbook committee. She pointed out with pride the 11 drawings she did that appeared in the 1936 yearbook. She said that during the Depression she went through burn pits to pick out charcoal to work with. Her dream was to attend art school, but graduating during the Depression meant going straight to work. 

At 15, Harrold started working in a local sewing factory before she was sent home for being too young. In 1937, she married her first husband, Nelson Fitz, and helped him operate the family farm, produce stands and an ice cream store. Her art dreams were put on hold as she filled her free time with volunteer work with her high school reunion committee and her local church. 

In the 1950s, Harrold started working with The Bon-Ton and Mailman's department stores, saving her money to eventually travel. When her husband died in the 1970s, she traveled to Italy, France, Holland and Germany, during which she rekindled her love for art and began sketching again. 

After returning from her travels, she was working at The Bon-Ton again when she met Kenneth Harrold, or rather, he met her. "He came in and pestered me and pestered me," she said, laughing. "So then I thought I may as well go out to dinner with him." They married in 1977, and she helped raise his two boys. 

Castleman described her mother as hardworking and someone who can't stand sitting still. During her work at Bon-Ton, Harrold tried to retire twice, but she returned to work because she enjoyed it and her employer found her invaluable.  At 74, she took her first art class with the York Art Association, quickly learning that her favorite style is pastels. She has sold many of her paintings in Texas since then. 

Her favorite things to paint are flowers and landscapes, but she does occasionally paint her four children, two stepchildren, 15 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great-grandchildren and her one great-great-great-grandchild. She still tries to paint when she can, but Castleman said Harrold's body can't quite keep up with her mind anymore. 

Harrold was excited for the induction, but a little nervous as well. "I'm afraid to make a blooper," she said. "I don't always know what's coming out of my mouth."