Former Granbury mayor David Southern, who was on the board of directors of the Shanley House when Gloria Whitley was the executive director, is sad that he lost a friend he’d had for 32 years when she died on Dec. 19.
“I can’t think of a bigger loss,” Southern said, predicting that Hood County won’t see another woman like Whitley come this way again any time soon.
Although she was 83, Southern noted that the longtime advocate of senior citizens didn’t think of herself as one.
“She thought of herself as their protector,” Southern said. “She worked right up until the end. With her dedication and hard-work ethic, she always believed any task could be done if you worked hard enough at it.
“She was amazing. She was a character, and she knew how to motivate people. Everybody respected her. When she spoke, people did just what she told them.”
After the second of her two stints as executive director of the Shanley House (later known as the Hood County Committee on Aging), Whitley continued to be a positive presence in the community – visiting seniors who were either shut-ins at home or in nursing homes, along with providing caretaker service.
Whitley was known for giving great hugs, and Southern was well familiar with the drill.
“She would ask you if you need a hug. It wasn’t a request, it was a command,” Southern said.
“You were going to get one whether you wanted one or not.”
After it was all said and done, Southern said, “You knew you had been hugged.”
He added that you might be “taken aback, but you got over it.”
Southern noted Whitley’s sense of humor.
“She knew how to tell jokes with the best of them,” Southern said.
Southern said that a man who attended the same church told a story to illustrate her humorous streak. Whitley, who was a tall woman, ended up on the receiving end of a good-natured jab from a friend of hers from church, but quickly jabbed right back.
Southern explained that Whitley usually was the first to show up for church service at the Granbury Church of Christ, where she was a member for more than 60 years. A male friend from the congregation, who was often the second to arrive, walked up to her on one Sunday and commented that it looked like half the congregation was there already.
Since he seemed to be so amused by her size, Whitley responded that when it came time for her funeral she would see to it that he would be the lone pallbearer designated to carry her casket.
Whitley had two sons, Jimmy Whitley of Bluff Dale and Todd Whitley of Dallas. Southern said he watched the younger of the two, Todd, grow up over the years.
“She was a great mother,” Southern said. “I think everybody would agree.”
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