St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Spiritual, positive - with a name that fit her

Gladys McDonald raised six children, had lunch with her husband daily and became a minister when she was 59.

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 22, 2003

BEACH PARK - Everyone called her "Glad."

Of course, the nickname came about because her full name was Gladys McDonald. But the people who knew her best say it couldn't have been more appropriate.

"She was very lighthearted but very spiritual," said her daughter, Sandy Chase. "So the name fit."

"She had a positive attitude, almost to the point of stubbornness," said another daughter, Mary Bracewell. "She just refused to let any bad thoughts in."

Mrs. McDonald died Aug. 14 at age 79 after a long struggle with cancer. She was a devout Christian and became an ordained non-denominational minister when she was almost 60 years old. She lived in Beach Park for several years.

Her life revolved around God, her six children and her husband, Bob, a prominent Tampa lawyer.

"My father would come home for lunch every day, or else my mother would bring lunch to him at his office," Bracewell said. "And every day at 4 p.m. I'd see her washing her face and putting on new makeup. She'd say, "When your father sees me I want to look fresh and beautiful."'

About 1980, Mrs. McDonald decided she wanted to become a minister. She told her husband she was going to go to Rhema Bible College in Tulsa, Okla., for two years. It was something she felt she had to do for her own spiritual growth.

"She told my father he could stay behind," said daughter Joanne Cone. "But their relationship was such that there was no way he would let her go."

Bob McDonald gave up his successful downtown Tampa law practice to move to Tulsa with his wife. He even studied with her and became an ordained minister himself.

Neither of them ever worked professionally as a minister, but Mrs. McDonald would often lead Bible study classes at her home. She was never without her favorite Bible, and her family made sure she was buried with it.

Mrs. McDonald was born in a small Pennsylvania town and showed an independent spirit from a young age. Unlike most small-town women of her generation, she chose college and a career over an early marriage. She studied nursing and joined the military, serving on a hospital ship in Japan during World War II.

Bob McDonald was also in the military, and they met while they were stationed in New Jersey. They were married in 1946 and would have celebrated their 57th anniversary earlier this week.

They were living in Rockford, Ill., with the first five of their six children when they decided they wanted to live in a warmer climate. In the late 1950s they moved to Tampa, where they didn't know anyone and had no connections.

Mary, their youngest child, was born in Tampa. The family has remained close, and the surviving children still live in South Tampa. Robert McDonald Jr. took over his father's law practice.

Through the years, Mrs. McDonald's devotion to her husband never wavered. In fact, her daughters say, it might have become stronger in recent years after Bob McDonald was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Even while Mrs. McDonald fought her own battle with cancer, her priority remained her husband and his well-being. She stayed active until the last weeks of her life and worried about how he would get along without her.

"If there ever was anyone who was going to heaven, it's her," said daughter Cone.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.