Fond farewell to village treasure Gladys, 99

The village has lost another of its oldest residents. Gladys Kulikowski, who lived at 101 for more than 50 years, has died at the age of 99.

Val Corbett, a fellow resident and lifelong friend, paid this tribute in her eulogy at Gladys’s funeral.

‘This is the second funeral for a resident of Piccotts End, as Judy Wade who lived at No 95 for over 40 years died a couple of months ago. When her daughter told her five-year-old son that Granny had gone to Heaven, he replied: “That’s okay, we can facetime her.”

I wish I could facetime Gladys. I’d tell her what a role model she was for her women neighbours especially Judy, Joyce Lear and me – we always said we wanted to be like Gladys when we grew up.

I would thank her for the laughter, the friendship and how pleased I was that she and Bill were guests at our wedding.

I arrived in Piccotts End in 1969 and the Kulikowskis were the first people my husband Robin introduced me to. Almost from the start we became firm friends sharing many dinner parties at our house with themes of Australia Day and South African Day. They had several Christmas meals with us because to us Bill and Gladys were our Piccotts End family.

Of course, Gladys was devoted to her own family and loved spending many Christmases with them – Melanie and Anne were such a help to her especially over the past few years.

We spent several holidays together to the Greek islands. On one holiday on the island of Samos my sister June joined us from Cape Town and had immediate rapport with Gladys. She reminded me about going to lunch at a nearby island, sitting with Gladys in a rowing boat both crocheting a bikini – she did the top and Gladys the bottom!

That was the holiday I told them I felt strange and they decided I was pregnant (about ten minutes I calculated later) so Gladys was there at another important time in my life.

But while pregnant with Polly, I did not buy one single thing in advance because I didn’t want to jinx anything. Unbeknownst to me, Gladys quietly collected many of the things I would need including a crib for which she had chosen a delicate patterned material for the lining because she had a gift for beauty in all things.

After Bill died, I admired Gladys enormously because although she was devastated, she contained her grief and her dignity though we all knew how very much she missed him. It was the pattern she set for me when my beloved husband Robin died eight years ago.

She tried hard to stay in her cottage when she felt she needed help even going so far to install a lift. It took a year and anyone else would have decided it was too much trouble but she persevered though a couple of times I had to dash over the road because the lift had stuck with her inside it.

And so with the help of Melanie and Anne, she went to Ashlyns Care Home.

I visited her there every week and she told me she was quite happy. “This is a pleasant place, with a lovely garden and I have books, TV and my friends coming to visit.”

That care home has never had as many visitors as they had for Gladys – friends she made and kept her entire life though, boy, did she moan to us about the food!

At 99 years of age her body might have given her grief but her mind was always razor sharp. Though she looked a bit like an angel, she had a quirky sense of humour and her often astringent remarks made me laugh out loud.

But her hearing was getting increasingly bad and a variety of hearings aids did not help; then her eye sight gave her trouble … during lockdown she wasn’t able to see friends so the things she cherished weren’t available but I’m sure she still complained about the food!

Throughout the 50 years she lived in Piccotts End, she had many visitors. and they always found her impeccably dressed – I used to come over at odd times to catch her in a dressing gown. I never did.

I told her once I thought she never sweated and she replied – “No I don’t sweat but sometimes I glow.”

I treasure our times together over so many years.

I will miss her.