Queen for a day!

That is none other than Gladys Binger who celebrated her 99th birthday on Feb. 3 in the parlor of the three-story, 31-room historic Vaile Mansion, with more than 200 well-wishers extending birthday greetings.

Why the Vaile Mansion?

Well, what better place to observe the matriarch's birthday than at the iconic 1881 mansion at 1500 N. Liberty in Independence.. After all, Gladys operated the Cable Nursing Home for 25 years at the Vaile after renting the stately home from Roger and Mary DeWitt.

“I just knew she would very much like that,” says Gladys' oldest daughter, Linda Craig, who confesses she made the decision to celebrate at the Vaile. “I didn't know whether they (the Vaile Victorian Society) would allow it. … But due to circumstances, they were kind and accommodating to let us do that,” she says, noting: “Gladys could go back and see what has been done (at the Vaile) and reminisce about her life there and the rest of the family.”

The Vaile was “near and dear” to us,” Gladys' son, David Binger, says in an interview with other family members. “I think as a family it was a reunion-type thing, because when you picture something in your mind as a child – like a Christmas tree – it was at the Vaile. My childhood memories go back there. It was a blessing.”

Reflecting on what might be her best birthday ever, Gladys says it was delightful returning to the Vaile.

“I looked around and so many memories came back. ...It was a delight. I remembered people visiting their relatives there, and they were so delighted. The building was (decorated) so beautiful, and we were able to celebrate together. It brought back people that I had seen before, and they were just as thrilled with the building as I was.”

Well, there's also a humorous side to the story.

“It took us 99 years to get Mom into a glitter dress,” her son laughingly says, explaining she was very conservative. However, “We got her dressed up for her birthday party.” And all agree. She was a knockout.

Adds Louise Binger, Gladys' second daughter: “It (the birthday) is something we will carry in our hearts and minds forever. She was queen for a day. She had a wonderful day.”

Born Jan. 20, 1920, in Bowen, Missouri, Gladys says the small community near Windsor, Missouri, is no longer on the map.

“I was one of four children and went to a one-room school and graduated in the eighth grade,” she says, recalling she went to Leeton, Missouri, and graduated from high school there. She also attended one-year of college in Warrensburg.

Gladys' life radically changed when she became a bride prior to graduating from high school. She also became a young widow in 1945 when her 25-year-old husband, Raymond Lowery, was killed by a Japanese suicide plane in the Pacific. Her husband was aboard a transport ship returning to the States from submarine duty when the attack occurred.

What kind of a person is Gladys Binger? Let Judy Hutsell tell you.

“For the 25 plus years I have been part of this family, Gladys Binger is the prettiest, most lovely, kind, giving, charitable woman I have ever met in my life. She is just giving to people. And she is really a special lady.”

Happy birthday, Gladys!

Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.