Friday, July 31, 2015

Coatesville trailblazer dies at age 105

Gladys J. Flamer, a beloved leader in her hometown of Coatesville, died Wednesday at the age of 105.

Coatesville trailblazer dies at age 105

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Gladys Flamer was known for her infectious smile, her hats, her activism and her Cadillac.

Gladys J. Flamer, a beloved inspiration in her hometown of Coatesville, died Wednesday at the age of 105 at the Harrison House in Christiana.

Born on June 5, 1906, Mrs. Flamer moved to the city from a nearby farm after high school, working as a housekeeper and sales associate. She married a truck driver, lost two children in childbirth, and became a symbol of Coatesville's tenacity as the city declined from its heyday as a steel mecca. Over the years, Mrs. Flamer worked as an LPN at the V.A. Medical Center and the former Embreeville Hospital. She owned a beauty shop in Coatesville for twenty years and held jobs at Lukens Steel and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Mrs. Flamer made headlines for working at Strawbridge and Clothier until she was 90, driving her red and white 1979 Cadillac Coupe Deville until 103, and remaining active in numerous organizations. "Mrs. Gladys Flamer was a fiery advocate for what she believed," said Tonya Thames Taylor, a West Chester University professor and fellow community advocate. "She lived life to the fullest. For instance, at 104, she served faithfully and actively as treasurer of Eureka Chapter #12 of the Order of Eastern Stars in Coatesvile. At 103, she was honored with the Rebecca Lukens Award and the Coatesville Area Branch Lifetime Achievement Award. At 102, she served as Judge of Elections in the 5th Ward in the City of Coatesville. She truly led a meaningful life that helped the city."

Services, which are being handled by Wright Funeral and Cremation Services in Coatesville, have not been finalized but are expected to be held next week. 

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Aubrey Whelan covers Chester County for the Inquirer. A native of a Philadelphia suburb so small it doesn't have a zip code, she grew up reading the Inquirer and was thrilled to take a job there in fall 2012. Previously, she covered crime, courts and D.C.'s Occupy movement for the Washington Examiner. Aubrey graduated from Penn State in 2011, where she worked for the award-winning campus newspaper and majored in journalism and French. Contact her at 215-495-5855 or You can also follow her on Twitter at

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