2017-08-03 / Front Page

100 Years

Gladys Carmean, Known to Family for Her Kindness and Card Playing, Reaches Milestone
By Debra Petkus


Gladys Carmean of St. Ignace, with her birthday cake. Gladys Carmean of St. Ignace, with her birthday cake. Gladys Carmean of St. Ignace knows a thing or two about birthdays. She just celebrated her 100th.

What does it feel like to be 100 years old?

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never been here before.”

Her answer, she said, was the same her late brother, Jack McCarthy, gave when he became a centenarian in 2013.

Mrs. Carmean was born Gladys McCarthy in Pickford, and one of her earliest memories is blueberry picking. Her father owned a big blueberry patch and sold blueberries and strawberries. She remembers patrons from the Les Cheneaux Islands stopping by to purchase them.

“I had the choice of staying home and helping mom or pick berries,” she said. She chose the berries.

Upon her graduation from Pickford High School, she worked for a local family before going to beauty school. She moved around a little, first to St. Ignace, then to Detroit. Upon returning to St. Ignace, she met the fellow who would eventually change her life.

She and Durwood Carmean dated, broke up, and got back together. When they realized they were meant to be together, they were married July 29, 1940, at St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church in St. Ignace. She was 22. They were married 70 years and reared six children.

“I just raised my kids, and have such a nice, beautiful family,” she said.

They settled down in St. Ignace and Mrs. Carmean did the paperwork and bookkeeping for several businesses that Mr. Carmean owned, said daughter Kathy Winkelman. Mr. Carmean passed away in 2011 at the age of 93.

The Carmean family has now grown to 15 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren with another on the way, and one great-great-grandchild.

Nearly 100 family members and friends came to the big birthday celebration Saturday, July 22. Mrs. Carmean’s actual birthday was Wednesday, July 26.

Asked about the key is to her longevity, Mrs. Carmean said it isn’t a special diet or a particular activity, but it is related to relationships: “I just like everybody to get along and manage to get together and just love each other.”

Her children and extended family get together as often as they can, giving cousins the chance to grow up and be great friends. They had their annual family reunion pizza party on Friday night preceding the birthday party.

Mrs. Carmean loves to play the game “Yooper.” It’s a card game using two decks of cards where the player with the lowest hand wins. It’s similar to 3-13 or rummy. It’s a family tradition after Mrs. Carmean learned it at a family reunion of her own in Wisconsin and introduced it to the family.

For her 100th celebration, each family member wore a T-shirt that had a caricature of Mrs. Carmean. She has been fondly called “the Gladiator,” and it pictures her dressed as one with a walking stick piercing through a playing card in an arena. On the back of the shirt is printed the question, “Wanna have a game?” something they have all heard from her.

The family has tweaked the game and added their own little rules here and there, and a more recent development is a $1 pledge per player, with the winner getting the pot.

“I always say I only have one dollar left and I won’t play anymore,” Mrs. Carmean says smiling. So to remedy that, one of her birthday presents was a big glass jar that says “Gladys Yooper Fund” and it can hold many dollars to keep the games going.

One of the newest players is great-granddaughter Liza, who’s entering third grade this fall.

“Grandma, I’m bringing my dollars and you’d better be ready,” she told Mrs. Carmean.

Every family member at the birthday party received a gift to commemorate the day. Mrs. Carmean’s granddaughter, Mamie Winkelman, made 100 glass-blown ornaments. Once they were given out, she donated the remaining 24 to the St. Ignace Public Library, where they are on display in Mrs. Carmean’s honor.

Gladys Carmean is proud of her family.

“I started most of that,” she said proudly when looking at a photograph of a 2013 get-together with a large number of family members.

She spends her time reading and enjoys the authors Nora Roberts and Mary Higgins Clark.

“She reads anything,” said her daughter, Deb Evashevski. “She loves a good read.”

She also enjoys watching “Dancing With The Stars,” and does the crossword puzzle in every newspaper she receives.

Mrs. Carmean is a big fan of the Detroit Tigers and enjoys watching the games so much she will stay up late to watch extra innings. Her favorite player is Miguel Cabrera and she was upset when J.D. Martinez was recently traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. She also likes the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Red Wings.

Mrs. Carmean has never given much thought to her age.

“I just went along each year, and I don’t know how far I’ll go,” she said. “I just don’t want to get senile and act my age.”

A lifelong member of St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church, she enjoys a weekly home visit from Ann Freel, who serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

A special gift Mrs. Carmean received from her niece, Mary Joslyn, is a framed proclamation, from the Vatican and the Pope Francis. It reads: “The Holy Father Francis cordially imparts the requested Apostolic Blessing to Gladys Carmean on the occasion of her 100th birthday and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary invokes an abundance of divine graces. July 26, 1917/2017.”

Noted Mrs. Evashevski: “When we were young, my mom was a great mom. She taught us things we didn’t even know we were being taught at the time.”

She added, “She is so laid back and kind.”

Mrs. Carmean said her family spoils her.

“I could really write a book about all the things they do,” she said.

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