LONG and active life filled with music, travel and caring for
others which began in Lisburn more than 83 years ago drew to a
close in New York States Orange County earlier this month.
Gladys Bleakley Lawrence, described by her
son Glenn Weiser as 'a highly accomplished person whose passing
should be noted', died at her home in the town of Tuxedo on
October 8. She had visited many parts of the world and made her
first transatlantic crossing at the age of just one when her
parents Robert and Edith Bleakley decided to leave their home in
the Co. Down area of Lisburn to start a new life in America. The
harsh economic conditions of the time persuaded them to follow
Robert's brother, who was already an established businessman in
the USA. Gladys spent most of her formative years in the
family's adopted city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was just
18 when she married the late Howard W. Weiser, an aeronautical
engineer with the Curtis Wright Corporation of Woodbridge, New
Jersey. The couple lived for many years in the New Jersey town
of Glenrock where they raised four children - Constance,
Patricia, Glenn and Douglas.
The young wife and mother devoted much of her
early life to looking after her home and children but decided in
her mid-30's to enter nursing. She attended Bergen Pines Nursing
School in Paramus, New Jersey, graduating as head of her class
at the age of 40. Gladys later earned a Masters Degree in
Nursing from the Manhattan College. Eventually, she became a
teacher of nursing at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, a
town close to Tuxedo. Her marriage to Howard Weiser ended in
divorce as did a second, brief marriage to Kenneth Lawrence, a
Professor of Engineering at Manhattan College. A third marriage
to Lester Goldstein, a nuclear engineer with the Stoller
Corporation, ended when Mr. Goldstein passed away in 2006.
Gladys's love of travel took her all over the
world. She was a voracious reader and member of a book club
while her musical talents also provided her with many friends.
She was a gifted amateur pianist with a love of old 'Tin Pan
Alley' tunes and sang as an alto in various choral groups.
She is survived by all four of her children
who live in the New York and New Jersey areas - Glenn Weiser in
Glenmont and Douglas Weiser in Monsey; Connie Sohodski
in Ruby and Patricia Iyer in Stockton. In
addition, she is survived by a brother, Albert Bleakle of
Fayetteville in Arkansas and he, grandchildren: Matthew Myczack
of Springhill, Tennessee; Shoshanna Guiet of London; Raja Iyer
of New Dehli; Nathan Iyer of Whitehouse Station, NJ and Andrew
Giammatte of Delmar, NY. She is also survived by a son-in-law,
Raj Iyer of Stockton, NJ, and two-daughters in-law, Patricia
Weiser of Glenmont. NY and Joyce Kessinger of Ruby, NY Her older
brother, Harold Bleaklev passed away in 2003.
Gladys's passing has brought sadness to
family members on this side of the Atlantic as well. She never
forgot her relatives in Northern Ireland and Glenn described her
'in many ways a product of the place'. Indeed, her final trip
across the Atlantic was made just last year when she visited her
cousins. Pearl Morgan and Mina Mears in Newry. Gladys's funeral
service took place in Suffern on October 10 and was followed by
a private interment at the Buckingham Friends Meetinghouse
Churchyard in Lahaska, Pennsylvania the following day.
Relatives and friends in Northern Ireland who
want to pay tribute to Gladys can make donations in her name to
the United Hospice of Rockland County, 11 Stokum Lane, New City,
Remembrances of Gladys can be posted on the
Internet Web site
www.mem.com under the name of Gladys Lawrence.
Fortune teller's prediction came true
THE eulogy at Gladys Lawrence Bleakley's funeral
was delivered by her son Glenn Weiser who explained how her
father, Lisburn man Robert Bleakley, met her mother Edith, an
English woman. "Readers such as Mom and her friends - she was a
member of a book club - always love a good story, and I have one
about Mom and her family I'll share with you now," he said.
"Mom once told me she was believer in fate, and
this is a strange case in point. One day in the fall of 1973 I
went with some friends to the seaside town of Point Pleasant,
New Jersey, where my English grandmother Edith -my mother's
mother - was living. "My buddies went off to the beach while I
dropped in on grandma, whose birthday it happened to be. Over
tea at her kitchen table, she told me the following tale.
"When she was 18 and living in Putney, a
suburb of London...she went to see a gypsy fortune teller who
told her that she would take a short trip across the water, and
then a long trip across the water, after which she would not
return to England.
"Some time afterwards she was sitting at home in
her second-storey flat when she saw a handsome man walking on
the street below. She turned to her mother, pointed him out, and
announced that this was the man she was going to marry.
"Edith was right. The handsome stranger, a
shy young fellow from Northern Ireland named Robert Bleakley,
soon turned up as the organist in her church, and he couldn't
understand why my grandmother was so crazy about him. But
grandma got her man, and the two were married and returned to
Northern Ireland. There they had three children, including Mom.
That was the short trip across the water. "Times got tough in
Ulster, though, so in the mid 1920s my grandfather had to leave
Northern Ireland and take his family to Pennsylvania, where his
brother had already established himself. That was the long trip
across the water.
"Grandpa found work, prospered, and the couple
never went back to England except for a brief visit in their
later years. The gypsy's prophecy proved true."