Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Gloria T. McDonald, a longtime resident of Roswell, NM, passed away on March 4, 2018. She was 90 years old. Transplanted from Frankfort, KY in 1968, when her husband decided enough with the snow and slush, how about living in his part of the world for a change, she agreed to pull up stakes and pack up the family and head west to California. However, after stopping to visit relatives in Roswell and delayed by the birth of her third child, it was decided to settle in for a bit. That was fifty years ago.
Born to Lottie Mae and Frank James Tussey April 28th, 1927 or thereabouts, (the courthouse burned down with all the records and since grandma had eleven children she wasn’t really sure of the year) Gloria was somewhere in the middle of them. The older kids made sure she zipped through several grades in school and the younger kids made sure she got into plenty of trouble. Between Nioka Queen of the Jungle and other Saturday matinee heroes of the silver screen, abandoned leaky rowboats left on the bank of the Kentucky River near their house and suchlike, there was always plenty of mischief to go around.
Out of all this chaotic energy, she developed a curiosity and desire for experiencing and investigating anything that caught her interest. At fourteen, she got a job at the Capitol Theater and had her own apartment in a Victorian house in downtown Frankfort in the Corner of Celebrities, (Lafayette is rumored to have stayed there) with two lovely older ladies, one of whom was an author and the other an illustrator. The other tenant, who became a lifelong friend, was the head librarian of the Frankfort Library. So, surrounded by art and gentility, the Frankfort Art Club was created for her and she was the charter member. She began to write poetry (published quite a few in magazines) and painted impressionistic art, which sold at art shows. Mom always said how lucky she was to have so many wonderful people looking out for her when she was so young and on her own. At sixteen, she acquired a map of New England, covered her eyes and stabbed her finger at the map and wound up moving to New Bedford, Mass. for several months until she got homesick and came home. At this time, she and one of her sisters started a singing duo (sister acts were big at the time), and sang at Renfrow Valley with Ernie Lee and on the radio, then on to Tulsa to sing on the radio until her sister got homesick and they came home.
A year or two later she moved to Nashville where her mother and a couple of sisters lived. She always liked to work at theaters because at that time, most of the entertainment was live and you got to meet all the stars. She had one of those outgoing personalities to which people gravitate. She became friends with Gene Autry and dated Tex Ritter and much later in life developed a long and amusing correspondence with Larry McMurtry after reading Lonesome Dove. She wound up with an audition for the Grand Ole Opry, and as she opened the door to go, there stood Jim McDonald in his uniform with a little bunch of flowers. He asked her to go to the movies and that was the end of her singing career. They were married shortly after in 1949.
As far as I know, she never performed onstage again.
After Jim got out of the Air force they settled in Frankfort, Ky. Rick was born in Kentucky, Marina was born in California and fourteen years later Will was born in New Mexico, so as you can see there was a bit of traveling in between. Luckily, mom was all for going new places and seeing new things. The year spent in Georgia at Fort Stewart was one of the best years of their marriage. We went up the coast and all over the south that year; mom always cherished her memories from that time.
After coming to Roswell, mom wound up with a job at the Plains Theater and from that, a job at the Roswell Daily Record in advertising sales. After calling in sick on her first day due to nerves, she threw herself into that job and earned the respect and admiration of every one around her. Winning several awards for ad making, it was another way she used her artistic talents. She had found her niche. After retiring several times, she retired for good in her 70’s.
In 1999 she published the Roswell Guide magazine with her daughter and sold ads for it. Contributing articles and artwork and poems, it was the fulfillment of her retirement dream. She took great pride in each issue and loved taking copies around to businesses all over Roswell.
She also began to paint again and produced dozens of landscapes of the mountains and New Mexico deserts that she had come to love. For a transplant, she bloomed nicely where she was planted.
Jim preceded her in death in 1998.
She is survived by her children, Rick S. McDonald of Colorado Springs, Co., Marina M. Blake (husband Tom) of Roswell, NM., and William T. McDonald of Tucson, AZ. Gloria had two grandchildren, Allison R. Gokey (husband Jon) and Kevin Blake, and three great-granddaughters, Alexia Blake, Kyleigh Blake and Jamie Blake. Gloria also has two surviving sisters, Susan Earwood and Janet Callas.
Services will be at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 at 6:00pm.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Roswell Humane Society or Goodwill.
The family wishes to thank the staff at ENMMC and Sunset Villa for their wonderful care and kindness.
Arrangements are under the personal care of LaGrone Funeral Chapel. Online condolences may be made at www.lagronefuneralchapels.com.