When Cheryl Johnson, Bonnie Hooks and Denise Iron were growing up on Chicago’s West Side as the daughters of Gladys and Beonville Braugher, no one would have guessed that someday Gladys would be fooled by her lovely daughters. Always the grand-dame of the West Side who dressed elegantly, she wasn’t easy to pull one over on. But her daughters and their spouses finally managed to surprise her on her 80th birthday.
According to Denise, the family managed to keep the secret for months as everyone worked together making plans. The theme on the invitations read, “The Second Time Around,” meaning Gladys’ “second” 40th birthday celebration (40 plus 40). The party was held at Elmcrest Banquet Hall, 7370 W. Grand Ave. in Elmwood Park. Gladys’ actual birthday was on Dec. 5, so fooling her with a little “white” lie was easy. According to Gladys, she was told that one of her grandson Brandon Hooks would be playing the trombone with his school band at the banquet hall. Mention grandchildren to most grandparents, of course, and they beam like a Christmas star.
The banquet hall was filled with friends and family where everyone enjoyed a sit-down dinner and ice cream cake. When Gladys and her husband Beonville (aka Bebe) entered the banquet hall and heard everyone yell “Surprise,” Gladys was speechless. As her daughters escorted her around to each table she seemed overwhelmed seeing friends, cousins, and the matron of her family, Aunt Margie Thomas. Margie, with the help of a family member, read a beautiful poem for her 80-year-old niece.
The evening included a fashion show and Power Point slide presentation, hosted by longtime friend Mrs. Cunningham. Family members participated in the fashion show, representing various eras in Gladys’ life-beginning with 1950s attire and ending with her outfit worn at her 50th wedding anniversary in 1998. The models’ “styling” kept the audience laughing and clapping. The show ended with Bonnie, Cheryl and Denise lip-synching the song “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Their performance, which included dance steps, brought the house down with applause.
Gladys and Bebe have been a fixture on the social and community scene of the West Side for many years, and both are members of Cary Tercentenary Church (1448 S. Homan) where Rev. Walter Harris is the pastor and Cong. Danny Davis’ wife Vera also is a member, Mrs. Davis attended the birthday party along with many other church members. When Bebe came to the podium to talk about his wife, he praised his church and the fellowship it offers. Rev. Harris, along with former pastor Rev. William L. Townsend and his wife, were in attendance.
Daughter Bonnie had the audience laughing as she talked about the words they were not allowed to use. On this occasion she was able to use a forbidden word and asked for forgiveness for telling her mother a “flunky” lie.
Daughter Denise stated, “My mother has done so much for our family and the entire family in general. We wanted to do something really special for her 80th birthday.
Well-known TV and film actor Andre Braugher is a nephew and his mother and father (Sally and Floyd) were in attendance.
Gladys retired in the mid-1990s from Kraft General Foods, where she had been a supervisor for many years. I first met Gladys in the 1970s at the General Foods Westside plant known as the “Calumet” facility. The plant name was taken from their product, Calumet Baking Powder. As part of Kraft’s management team, Gladys always insisted on treating everyone with kindness and respect. Today, Gladys looks like someone in her 50s or 60s, as does her husband. When Bebe and Gladys took to the dance floor, many of the men tapped Bebe on the shoulder to get their chance to dance with the honoree.
Gladys and Bebe have watched their daughters graduate from college, marry, become mothers and now enjoy their grandchildren and their very first great-granddaughter, 1-year-old Tora Myers.
Gladys said, “I feel wonderful, and I was really surprised. This is one of the best nights of my life.”