The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Gladys Flamer — 2010

4th Rebecca Lukens Award Recipient

The Graystone Society, located in the Lukens National Historic District in Coatesville, announced its fourth annual Rebecca Lukens Award to be presented to noted Coatesville and Chester County community, church and political leader, Gladys Flamer. 

Born in 1906 in Christiana and one of thirteen children, Gladys Flamer was just a young girl out of Benner High School when she took the job as laundress at the home of Lukens Steel president, Robert Wolcott at his estate in Thorndale. Eventually, through hard work and dedication, she would achieve the position of head cook. Gladys remembered her days at The Wolcott Estate, “as sometimes polishing silver for two days straight,” or watching the “dogs as big as cows” being walked.

Because education was hard to come by (especially for African-American girls), Mrs. Flamer’s parents aligned their daughter with people who had the benefit of a higher education. One such group hailed from Cheney University and traveled to meet then-first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt for a luncheon in the White House. Mrs. Flamer recalled, “Three cars traveled from Coatesville to the White House from Cheney. Most of those people are dead now.  God blessed me to be here after they have gone.” Seven decades later that same university would bestow a full scholarship upon Mrs. Flamer.

Mrs. Flamer’s illustrious and diversified career would take her in many directions. She once owned a beauty shop in Coatesville for twenty years. She was an LPN at the VA Medical Center and Embreeville Hospital. She also worked for Lukens Steel and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Many also remember her tenure as a sales associate at Strawbridge and Clothier at the age of 90.

She was an active member of her church and politically shrewd. Her dedication to her community included membership in The Coatesville Historical Commission, The Eastern Stars, The Better Community Group and Better Housing and Politics, the Sick Committee, the Coatesville Senior Center, the local NAACP and the Hyacinth Federated Club (among others). She was a Judge of Elections in her fifth ward and she still attended Council Meetings. She also to baked homemade pies and served lunch to the Thursday Retired Men’s Club at 103 years of age. She received a host of awards and honors for dedicated service and devotion to hard work in many of these organizations.

When Mrs. Flamer’s was asked her secret to her longevity? “Serving the Lord. I was raised in the Church. The saints are supposed to take care of the Lord’s Temple.”

Gladys Flamer was a local centenarian and community leader. She was known to be the oldest citizen living in the City of Coatesville. When she was 103, she was still driving. Everyone knew her red and white 1979 Cadillac Coupe Deville. At 105, she was mentally sharp, could still stand and walk on her own. She died on Feb. 8, 2012. She was 105.