Gladys Mae Harms Lee was born on a farm near Corn, Okla. to German parents on Jan. 14, 1931. She died in her home in Fallbrook, Calif. on Oct. 27, 2012 at 81 years of age.
Gladys’ German grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Russia, selling all that they had to escape the communist dictatorship of that country. Gladys was the last of eight children. She and three brothers survived to adulthood. Her parents homesteaded in western Oklahoma. Growing mainly wheat and raising animals to supplement the family’s income, they survived through the dust bowl and depression years. She attended her first eight grades of school in a one-room schoolhouse with her older brother.
Gladys accepted Christ as her Savior and was baptized in a pond on the family farm at the age of 15. She was a member of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Corn, Okla. After graduating from Corn High school, she started college, but soon met her future husband, Paul Schmidt. They were married in 1951 and had one daughter. In 1958 the family moved to Torrance, Calif. In 1963 they separated, and Gladys and Jackie continued to live in Torrance.
In 1968, Gladys met Richard Lee, a man with two young daughters. She thought, “I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me, but if I can help somebody, that’s what I want to do.” They were married the next year. Those two little girls won Gladys’ heart and she began giving them the same care and guidance she had given her own daughter. Now they were a family of five. Jackie was 17 and was ecstatic to have two little sisters. The family attended the First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes where they worshipped and served the Lord for 21 years. Gladys worked in the banking industry for 20 years and then did daycare in her home with her daughter for about 10 years.
After Richard’s retirement from TRW in 1990, the two of them moved to Fallbrook. They were both active in the community, serving on the board of the historic Reche School Preservation Club, attending community events, and actively participating in their church. They joined Community Baptist Church and served their Lord in a variety of ways: singing in the choir, helping with Vacation Bible School and much more. She was a member of Bible Study Fellowship for five years.
She loved to grow things, from her farming roots no doubt, and won ribbons for her cymbidium orchids. She was so excited to move to Fallbrook because the property had fruit trees. She canned many quarts of fruit and tomatoes, and gave out hundreds of pints of her famous apple jelly to friends and neighbors.
Gladys survived ovarian cancer in the 90’s, was living with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis for about 20 years, but in the past few years, she had other medical issues. After her beloved Richard died in 2009, she had more and more difficulty. She passed away on Oct. 27 while asleep in her bed.
Gladys’ life was one of service. She didn’t crave the limelight, but was content to help in the background wherever she could. She always had a smile and a joke to cheer someone up. In one of her last doctor’s appointments she was sitting in the waiting room with her caregiver and several other patients. She said, “Everyone looked so sad and down, I felt I just had to do something.” So she told them a joke and the whole room exploded with laughter. When someone visited her in her last months she was usually the one that encouraged the visitor.
Gladys was preceded in death by her husband Paul Schmidt and her husband Richard Lee; her parents Henry W. and Justina Harms; her three brothers Ogen, Barney, Leo, and their spouses.
She is survived by daughter Jackie (Schmidt) Fisher of Ramona, Calif.; daughter Lisa Lee of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Karen (Lee) Mintzias of Redondo Beach, Calif.; son-in-law Art Fisher; grandchildren Cristina (Fisher) Kiehl, Paul Fisher, Evan Fisher and their spouses; Christopher Mintzias, Matthew Mintzias, and Elizabeth Mintzias; and four great-grandsons who were the light of her life.
A Memorial Service to celebrate Gladys’ life will be held at Community Baptist Church, 731 S. Stage Coach Lane in Fallbrook on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. A memorial fund has been established at the church in lieu of flowers. Contact the church at (760) 728-2966 for more information.