Gladys G. Reed, retired head of the home economics department at Dunbar High School and a Bare Hills neighborhood activist, died of a stroke Oct. 17 while on vacation in Petoskey, Mich. She was 94.
Born Gladys Jeanette Gaskin in Smethport, Pa., she was the daughter of Elwood Orlo Gaskin, who owned and operated a barbershop, and Clementine Washington Gaskin, a teacher.
"They were among the very few African-American families in Smethport," said her son, Orlo Gaskin Reed of Bare Hills. "She was an all-round excellent student. Her father insisted that all his daughters get college degrees and be self-reliant."
She was valedictorian at Smethport High School in 1938. She came to Baltimore as a student at Morgan State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in home economics. She was 75-year member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and attended many of its meetings.
She began teaching in the Baltimore school system in 1942.
She initially taught at Booker T. Washington Junior High School in West Baltimore, where she met her future husband, Crafton C. Reed Jr., who was a substitute teacher and later became a safety engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
She later joined the faculty of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in East Baltimore, where she headed the home economics department from 1972 to 1975, when she retired.
She and her husband were in a house in the 1100 block of Park Ave. in Bolton Hill when it was condemned for urban renewal. The Sutton Place apartments were built there.
"When our house on Park Avenue was torn down for urban renewal in the 1950s, they were going to send us to Cherry Hill, and my husband said, 'No way,'" she said in a 1999 Baltimore Sun article that detailed her move to Pleasant View, a tightly knit residential community off Falls Road in Baltimore County's Bare Hills section.
She became president of the area's civic association, working in conjunction with the Ruxton Riderwood Lake Roland Association.
"So we came here. I grew up in a little town in Pennsylvania, and it reminded me of it," she said in the article. Her sister, Emma Bright, a principal at Hilton Elementary, lived across the street.
"Of course we're concerned about businesses creeping up Falls Road. This is a closely knit community, and we're worried about industry and other expansion and its effect on our property values," Mrs. Reed said in the article.
"Gladys Reed was one of those people whose grace and wisdom and wit made you say to yourself. 'Oh this wonderfully exceptional person, what a treasure to know her,'" said a friend and former neighbor, Sarah F. Lord. "Her stories were quiet but so full of the absurdities of life that you wept with laughter, and sometimes laughed in order not to weep. She was beautifully dressed, polite — and strong."
Mrs. Reed made many of her own clothes for special events and the parties she attended. She was also an accomplished cook.
"I cooked for her the last 10 years, and I came under her scrutiny. If the Cornish hen was undercooked, I was told in a nice way," her son said.