Chi-Town lost one of its dearest members on May 5, 2008 when Gladys Csanda died in her home. Many of you newer dancers may not have known Gladys very well. She danced higher level, still participating in C2 and C3A workshops at the age of 83. She listed her occupation as “Grandmother of the Chi-Town Squares” and what a grandmother she was: dancing, joking, and truly a pleasure to be around. She was of great assistance as Chi-Town dancers were learning the higher levels, with her smiling, gracious presence that will be greatly missed. A celebration of her life was held on May 25, 2008 which was “standing room only”, filled with her many square dance friends and family.
On Friday, May 2, 2008, 83 year old Gladys went on a “date” with Don Drehobl to dance at Cloverleafs in Deerfield , that Sunday she went to her weekly bingo game, and on Monday morning; the day she died; she was getting ready to go to the exercise class that she attended faithfully three times a week. That was typical Gladys; always on the move!
Gladys and her husband Al started square dancing in the 50’s and enjoyed it for a lot of years. I first met her at square dance campouts before I ever started dancing. After Al passed away, Len and Melanie Gordon started picking her up for Chi-Town ’s Monday nights and their Wednesday challenge workshop; of course that was in addition to her Thursday workshop and Friday and Saturday dances in Deerfield . (She still drove but wasn’t comfortable street parking.) When Len and Melanie quit dancing, I told her I drove right past her house on my way into the city and I would start picking her up so she could keep coming. Typical Gladys didn’t want to be a burden and it took quite a bit of convincing. When she finally gave in, she told me to pick her up in the empty lot on the southeast corner of Lawrence and Oketo. Her building was on the northwest corner and she lived in the back which I found out when I dropped her off that first night as I refused to let her out in a dark empty lot at 10:45 at night. She probably walked a half hour to meet me in that lot!
She loved coming to Chi-Town and truly loved “you kids”, the energy and enthusiasm, and how accepting everyone was of her. Yes, she felt she shouldn’t come because she was older and slower and didn’t feel she could keep up and she regularly threatened to quit our Wednesday workshop because she was “holding us back” but she moved as quickly as any of us and knew the calls better than we ever will.
Her dancing, her smile, her quick wit that cracked us up, her selflessness and generosity will certainly be missed but boy were we fortunate to have had “Grandma Gladys” or “Gigi” as part of our lives!
— Kathy Zottmann
I don't use the words "role model" very often. However, when I think of Gladys those are the first two words that come to mind.
I come from a family where people were described as "old" by the time they were 50. Gladys turned my ideas about aging upside down. By her presence and example she taught me that it is important to go out and do things and to meet a variety of people: people of different ages, people from different backgrounds and people with different interests. The people you meet will challenge your pre-conceptions; teach you new things and enrich your life.
She taught me that - despite aches and pains - it's important to move. It doesn't matter if some days you move better or worse than other days. It doesn't matter if you need to take a "time out" once in a while. Just get out there and do something!
She also personified the importance of having a sense of humor. There was always a twinkle in her eyes and - when I least expected it - she'd let rip with a well-timed joke or humorous comment.
Attending her memorial service validated my experience of Gladys. People of all ages and many different backgrounds came together to pay their respects to a woman who enriched their lives. Formally and informally, people shared stories about Gladys' life. A common thread in all of the stories was Galdys' zest for life and her sense of humor. I suspect we all took a moment to realize that our lives were richer because we knew her. I left with the realization that the best tribute I could pay Gladys is to more fully embrace the daily wonders that life presents.
- Arlene M. Kaspik