When Glad Williamson suffered from breathlessness as a child, doctors diagnosed her as having a weak heart and ordered her not to overexert herself. When Glad passed away in November 2021 at age 102, she’d outlived them all.
Glad was born in Murray Bridge, country South Australia, in 1919. One of four children, it was the height of the Depression when she finished school at 14 but because of her ‘weak heart’, Glad was told she was not fit enough to take on paid work. Instead, she stayed home to help her mother with housework.
‘Times were different then. They were hard. Very hard. And then the war came on, which made it harder still,’ Glad said.
‘My (oldest) brother went overseas to Tobruk and all those places. He came back, but it was a dreadful time for everybody.’
A love of dance
Glad’s ill health ruled out most forms of exercise, but she loved dancing. It was at a dance that she met James Williamson. James, a carpenter by trade, was in the army and had been stationed at the munitions factory in Murray Bridge for the duration of the war.
‘He must've been impressed with my dancing. I ended marrying him and had a daughter, Dawn,’ Glad said.
Unfortunately, James was only in his 40s when he passed away.
‘I was on my own for 50 years.’
It was after James passed that Dawn took her mum on a trip to Europe.
‘We went to France and Italy and all those places along the way. We went to England, and I sat where the Queen sat in Balmoral (Castle, Scotland) and then we went to Ireland. It was lovely.’
The importance of family
Glad continued to live alone until she was 95, when she moved into an aged care facility, Sunnyside House in Camperdown, where she enjoyed crocheting and knitting for Dawn, her five grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
Glad credited good genes for her longevity, despite her bad heart.
‘My uncle made it to 100 and that was years ago, when we didn’t have the medication that we've got now,’ Glad said.
COVID-19 annoyed Glad, as it prevented her from seeing family, but she said she’d seen worse.
‘On the whole, my daughter says that I'm very tough,’ Glad said.
‘I've been through a lot of break outs of Spanish Flu and things like that. Polio, scarlet fever. Diphtheria was another one, but polio was the worst. People were really frightened of polio.’
Asked to name a highlight of her life, Glad didn’t hesitate: ‘Having my child. It was something, I wanted and thought I'd never have — and she's wonderful.’
Reviewed 05 July 2022