Gladys Simpson, who turned 100 on Monday, was born in Battle Creek,
famous for Kellogg Corn Flakes, but she swears by Quaker Oats as a
major source of her longevity.
most of her adult life for breakfast, she ate only Quaker brand and
only oats prepared in a pan — never microwaved. Her daughter
Marian Ax laughed, remembering how her mother packed her oats and a
small pan when she traveled just in case oatmeal wasn’t
Food variety did not concern her.
didn’t eat it for the joy of it,” Simpson said. “I ate it because
it was good for me.”
oatmeal habit along with never smoking and drinking helped her meet
her goal of reaching 100. Her birthday was celebrated Sunday with a
large gathering of relatives who traveled long distances for the
party held at Marian and Bob Ax’s ranch in West Valley.
Although she battles fractures from osteoporosis, Simpson maintains
enough mobility to live on her own next to her daughter’s house.
She still dresses alone, makes her bed and cooks two meals a day
years, Simpson enjoyed keeping up the yard and beautiful gardens
around her home.
retired at 80,” she said.
family still reaps the benefit of her work on family genealogy and
her sharp memories of American history since her birth on Aug. 16,
1910, in Battle Creek, Michigan, to George Edwin and Mary Catherine
“When I was 7 years old, World War I started and that made a big
impression on me,” she said. “A year later, the flu hit the whole
According to Simpson, Battle Creek had a large Army post. She said
the installation lost as many men from the flu as they did from
was terrible,” she said.
1918, her family traveled by train to a new life in Fresno, Calif.
Simpson has a far-away look in her eyes as she remembered the
old-fashioned train with one engine pushing and the other
the train rumbled across the prairie and the desert, death was
along for the ride.
was so loaded with stacks of caskets of soldiers,” she said. “At
each station, they would unload caskets.”
Simpson’s first impression of Fresno was the intense heat. Her
family moved to a farm with apricot and peach orchards and grape
those days, farm labor was performed by families of Armenian
immigrants who lived in their rather barren bunk houses.
“The women and young girls cut peaches and apricots,” she said.
“The men and boys did heavy labor in the orchards and
family next moved to Oakland where Simpson went to high school but
didn’t finish. She later took night classes and went to a business
college where she learned bookkeeping, a skill that kept her well
employed for years.
1928, she married Wilford Moore, a ranch hand, who moved on to work
at the Chevrolet parts factory in Oakland. Her first child Richard,
now deceased, was born on May 31, 1929, and her daughter Marian
followed two years later on the very same day in 1931.
Even more amazing, Simpson’s sister gave birth to a boy on the same
day, May 31, 1929, in the same town. She still recalls the headline
in the newspaper — “Sisters had boys like twins.”
Her first husband left the family on their own in the Great
Depression. Simpson has vivid memories of the stock market crash
and people losing everything almost overnight.
“Rich and poor were on the same level,” she said. “They were poor
and that was all there was to it.”
Simpson remembered how hard her mother worked, cleaning houses and
remodeling them. She and her mother also gathered food, like
potatoes left in fields after the harvest, for a community center
that functioned like a food bank.
They found many cast-off food sources to haul to the center for
got her (mother’s) wash tub and went to the cannery,” she said.
“Anything that was cut wrong or not really pretty would go out a
Simpson said that hog ranchers would park their trucks at the end
of the chute and get all the fruit rejects. They would slip her
wash tub in to fill with fruit to take and can at the center.
“Mom was born and raised on a farm so she knew how to can. I would
clean the kettles,” she said. “You would get so many points for the
work you did there. That’s how the food was distributed.”
raised her family mostly on her own by taking bookkeeping jobs
until she got lucky in love. After moving to Oroville, Calif., she
met and married Louis Simpson, a forest ranger, in 1950.
“She was with him until he passed in 1972,” her daughter Marian
long after, Simpson came up to live next to her daughter in a
mobile home on the ranch. Marian said her mother devoted herself to
learning her family’s history, even earning a certification as a
genealogist in the process.
“She drove herself all over the country,” Marian said. “She would
go to court houses and cemeteries where she would get names and
information on the family.”
Simpson traced the Lacey family back to a William Lacey who was in
Virginia in 1625. Her most exciting discovery was that a brother of
her father (her uncle) had been living not far from her own family
Her father lost contact with his entire family after leaving home
and moving around the country. Because of Simpson’s work, her
uncle’s adopted daughter — a nun named Sister Betty — became a
beloved member of their family until she died.
“She thought she had no family whatsoever,” Marian said. “She was
member of the Mormon church, Simpson used their extensive genealogy
records in Salt Lake City to help her accumulate her huge book of
family lineage as well as photos. She credits her church’s wisdom
on diet and clean living with helping her live long enough to enjoy
her two children, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and
Simpson said she enjoyed the gathering of relatives in the days
leading up to her 100th birthday celebration.
get carried away talking about genealogy,” she said with a laugh.
“I wore myself out.”
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Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by e-mail at