July 22, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
88°F

The Dash Between: A cooking perfectionist with a big heart

Gladys Pease painstakingly prepared plenty of fabulous food for family functions, card parties, Seville Historical Society meetings and Seville Presbyterian Church doings.

The Seville resident, who died June 5, 2011, at age 92, “was always the one who would bring extra food to dinners to make sure there was enough to go around,” someone wrote for the historical society’s last newsletter.

Kenneth and Gladys Pease in Riverside, Calif., in 1943. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Kenneth and Gladys Pease in Riverside, Calif., in 1943. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Gladys, a perfectionist, didn’t bring the same dish to each event. She sought new recipes and tried them out at home before sharing them with others.

“She would not serve anything that didn’t look appetizing,” said Betty Wright, a member of the historical society board. “She’d re-do the dish again until it looked (and tasted) right.”

For the organization’s lasagna dinners, “We were all supposed to take two pies,” Wright said. “She always took three or four.”

When each individual was responsible for one covered dish, Gladys made three or four things plus lemonade and iced tea.

Gladys, who would have turned her enclosed porch into a tearoom if zoning regulations had permitted, loved spending time creating meals, finger foods and new desserts that would leave people grinning with satisfaction and asking for more.

She was born Gladys Lucille Gordon on Oct. 21, 1918, in Rittman.

Her parents raised cows, corn and four children — Gladys, Eva Meager, Homer Gordon and Vera Fettler — on their farm located between Seville and Creston.

Her farm background shaped Gladys’ attitude about animals.

“She was never an animal person,” said her daughter, Lynne Melton of Jacksonville, Fla. “Every animal had a purpose. When we started bringing pets home, she put up with us and a raccoon, crows, little chickens. She gritted her teeth and made it through that.”

After graduating from Seville School, a one-room schoolhouse that housed elementary and secondary students, Gladys worked as a waitress at a Seville restaurant.

She was in her mid-20s in the early 1940s, when she married Kenneth Pease, who was six years her senior. Both had been married before. They had no children from, and rarely spoke about, their previous marriages.

Gladys and Kenneth, who worked for Rubbermaid for many years, raised two children — Lynne and Ken of Wadsworth — before Kenneth died in 1968.

During the early years of their marriage, Gladys worked at Tisher’s Restaurant, which is now American Heritage Restaurant.

In the late 1940s, the Peases lived in Chicago, where Gladys did clerical work for the Alden’s catalogue store.

She worked at Seville Bronze before taking a job as a clerk for the Seville Board of Public Affairs, which handles electric, water and sewer services.

“She retired (in 1988) when she was 70 years old,” said her son, Ken. “She didn’t want to have to learn to use the computer. That’s when she took up bridge twice a week and volunteered at the hospital.”

Her daughter found it amazing that Gladys played bridge. When her kids were young, “cards were not allowed in the house,” Lynne said. “She didn’t know a diamond from a club.”

She volunteered as a fry cook for the snack bar at Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital, “but only in good weather. She wasn’t going to drive in bad weather,” her daughter said.

Gladys was still working for the city in the 1980s, when she joined the newly formed historical society. She served as the group’s secretary for 17 years before stepping down in 2006.

“I learned a lot from her,” Wright said. “I could always depend on her. She was never one for wanting the praise or the glory for what she did. She just wanted to do her part. She always felt anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

Gladys did whatever was necessary to keep things running smoothly, opting for behind-the-scenes roles instead of grabbing the spotlight at the annual festival, now known as GiantFest.

The festival celebrates the lives of Capt. Martin Bates and his wife, Anna, known as the Giants of Seville. Bates, who was supposed to have been 7 feet 9 inches tall, and his 7-foot-11 wife lived in Seville in the late 1800s.

“At GiantFest, Gladdie was always there to help,” Wright said. “She maybe didn’t pop the popcorn. Maybe she never really spearheaded anything at GiantFest, but she always was at the museum when it was open.”

She assisted Wright with selling postcards with pictures of the super-tall couple, playing cards with images of locally prominent and/or historical figures and other Seville paraphernalia.

“The only thing we couldn’t talk her into was entering her pies in the GiantFest,” her daughter said. “I’m sure she would have won.”

Gladys made killer peach custard pies, strawberry pies and cheesecakes.

A couple of weeks ago, the extended Pease family got together for what they called the “Gladys Gala.”

“Everybody in my family brought something that was my mom’s recipe,” Ken said.

The menu included Gladys-style pies, barbecued chicken made with relish, ketchup and brown sugar, classic potato salad, fried onions (not your basic beer-battered onion rings), pickled eggs and beets, baked apples and peanut butter log.

“I think she would have been pleased,” Lynne said. “I think she would have been smiling — or laughing at what we were doing.
“She should have had her tea shop. She would have done well.”