Nearly 100 years ago Gladys Stroud, who enjoys wheeling around Las Vegas in her 2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue, was born into a New York City where for the first time there were more cars than horses on the streets.
The more you talk with this lively woman who sits on a pillow to see over the steering wheel, the more you head to the history books to make better sense of her observation, “The world has changed a lot since I was born.”
She came into the world on March 31, 1917, six days before the U.S. entered World War I and at a time when the maximum speed limit in most American cities was 10 mph.
While it’s fascinating to learn that the hamburger bun was invented in the year of her birth, it’s even more wonderful to be in the company of someone who has been around for a century and still has the good health to really enjoy life now.
Her only prescribed medications are for mild cases of high blood pressure and acid reflux. She also takes a few vitamins.
After parking the Olds the other day in her Peccole Ranch neighborhood in west Las Vegas, Gladys half-ran into her house to play mahjong. A tile-based Chinese game, it’s similar to rummy in cards.
Several young friends arrived to play: Diane Zumbo, 77; Lynne Parisi, 66; Susan Norris, 71; Bobbye Handler, 81; and Dorothy McGehan, 77. They’ll also be at her birthday party Friday at Carrabba’s on West Charleston Boulevard.
They all know Gladys’ secret to longevity — “good scotch, a good cigar and good sex.”
In addition to playing mahjong twice a week, she exercises at Desert Breeze Community Center and volunteers at the Sahara West Library — each also twice a week. And she attends weekly Bible study, plays bingo at Red Rock Resort, drinks scotch at happy hours and takes in live theater at either the Smith Center or the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
On top of that, she babysits her great-great-great-grandson, 6-month-old Thaddeus. Gladys’ great-great-granddaughter and Thaddeus’ mom, Dana, lives with her.
“I enjoy life like it is, ” says Gladys, who reads David Baldacci novels as Thaddeus sleeps. “I tried pot, but it didn’t work.”
The daughter of a furrier, she didn’t enjoy her early years. An ear problem and subsequent surgery left her in pain. Her parents sent her to school in California hoping the climate would help. It didn’t.
The passage of time did. But while losing the pain, she also lost hearing in her right ear.
“I’ve probably got good health now because God made up for when I was young,” she says.
Returning to New York after high school, she graduated from business school and met her first husband, Arnold Bazell. Their second child, Frank, a Green Beret, was killed in Vietnam in 1965. He was awarded the Silver Star for Valor.
“I’m so glad he wasn’t permanently disabled where he’d have to depend on others,” she says. “I always try to find something positive after something sad happens, so emotions don’t eat me up.”
Both her husbands died of heart disease. William Stroud, a retired middle manager with whom she played golf and cruised the world, died a year after their 2002 move to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. She had retired from an office job.
“I’m hoping to live to 200, but I don’t fear death,” Gladys says. “I nearly bled to death after having Esther, my first child — my uterus wouldn’t close — and I found myself in a very peaceful and warm comfortable place. Until I heard the doctor say, ‘She’s coming back,’ I’m pretty sure I’d died. It was a gray place, but very nice. Nothing to worry about.”
Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.