Gurley Lions Club serving the Gurley community since 1948
Gladys Gwin Kelley, the daughter of the late Dr. Robert Donnell and Sarah (Betty) Elizabeth Bomar Gwin, born November 26, 1878 is the subject of our love and appreciation today as we honor her on the occasion of her one hundredth birthday anniversary.
Miss Gladys, as she is affectionately called, evidently entered the Preparatory Department of Bethel College at the age of nine.
According to available Bethel College records, she was a student there from 1888 through 1899. during these years she was an ardent music student, having chosen the teaching of music as her vocation.
In 1914 Miss Gladys returned to her Alma Mater, Bethel College, and for seventeen years was the much loved and respected “Instructor of Piano, Harmony and Musical History.
During her first years of teaching at Bethel, pupils were charged $3.00 per month, and to several Missionary Students who were not financially able too pay for music lessons, Miss Gladys taught them gratis.
After leaving Bethel, she taught private lessons in a home across the street from the McKenzie Schools, and taught far beyond the retirement age. For more
than a half century, she has taught an inestimable number of students, perhaps the third and fourth generations.
Eighty eight years ago, September 27,1890, at the age of twelve, Miss Gladys became a member of the McKenzie Cumberland Presbyterian Church, where her father was an elder, and with the exception of a few years when living elsewhere, has been a loyal and devoted member. Few people have given more of self to their church than has Miss Gladys. For five or six decades she was the faithful, dependable, accurate church pianist-a willing service rendered gratuitously. She felt that this was one way she could serve her Master and her church, and was really hurt when offered pay for her services. It is no wonder that Miss Gladys has always been such a staunch Cumberland Presbyterian. The first authorized theological statement of the newly formed Cumberland Presbyterian denomination (1810) was prepared by a distant relative, Robert Donnell, together with Finis Ewing, one of the founders of the denomination, (note-her father was named Robert Donnell, as well as other members of the Gwin family).
In 1902, while living with her brother, Edward Gwin, and teaching music in Holdenville, Oklahoma, she was married to Mr. William D. Kelley. They later
moved to Gurley and then to Selmer(sp), Alabama, in their quest for a suitable climate for Mr. Kelley, who was in ill health. Miss Gladys contiinued her career
in music wherever they lived.
Mr. Kelley died in Selmer, Alabama in 1912 leaving Miss Gladys with four small children-Elizabeth, Kathryn (Mrs. Orion Mitchell), Frank and Bill to nurture and to educate- a task which whe accepted and assumed courageously. Only a person with a stalwart Christian character, love for her children and determination could have succeeded in such a task. She did a marvelous job.
The path of Miss Gladys was not always strewn with roses-there were some thorns.
She was left a widow in her early thirties; Elizabeth, her oldest child, died at the age of thirteen and Kathryn, after being in ill health for many years, died
last year(1978),but Miss Gladys has been a “Soldier of the Cross” never wishing to burden others with her sorrows. Her eight grandchildren are a source of joy
and pride to her.
McKenzie has never had a more influential citizen nor one who has touched the lives of more people than has Mrs. Gladys Gwin Kelley.
Her children, her church, her former students and her friends “riseup and call her blessed”.
by Grace Johnson Beasley November, 1978
Thank you Frank Mitchell for sharing this document June 13 2010.