Theodosia resident Gloria Noah celebrates 90th birthday
Theodosia resident Gloria Noah turned 90 on Dec. 16, but she says she’s been celebrating the milestone for much longer than that.
“Oh honey, it isn’t just today. I’ve been having birthday parties since Thanksgiving!” Gloria said when asked what she was doing for her birthday last week.
Gloria said that her four granddaughters, Megan, Annie and Danielle Noah and Katie Noah Engebretson, all from St. Louis, came to Thanksgiving dinner in Theodosia this year and threw her a big surprise birthday party. Her nephew Randy Martin flew in from Moab, Utah, for the party.
“They had it at Cookies [Restaurant] and down by the pool. It was the biggest party ever, and I never expected it. It was such a surprise,” she said.
After that, Gloria said two friends took her to lunch at the Dockside Family Restaurant and to the Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson to watch the live performance of “Jesus” in celebration of her birthday.
Last week, the dance team that Gloria leads at Theodosia United Methodist Church threw her another big birthday party.
“…Then just yesterday my niece flew in from California - just for my birthday. She’s very busy, selling her house and everything, but she stopped everything to come down here and be with me,” she said.
Gloria was born on Dec. 16, 1931, at the Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Milton and Frances Lewis.
“I was a Depression baby. My father went to the hospital and paid for my birth before I was born. They told him, ‘No. You don’t have to pay for it now.’ But he told them he wanted to, because he didn’t know if he’d have the money if he waited,” she said.
“In those days you had to stay in the hospital for two weeks. My mother couldn’t come up with a name for me. She left the hospital at Christmastime. As she was walking out of the hospital, they were singing “Glory in Excellence.” So my name became Gloria,” she said.
Despite those tough Depression era times of her birth, Gloria has grown to be a bright and positive member of the Theodosia community, and has accomplished some interesting and impressive things during her nine decades of life.
“I’ve had some fantastic years. I worked for NBC and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, where I met Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bob Hope. I was an American Airlines stewardess and have had pictures taken of me sitting on many movie stars’ laps. I’ve met countless stars during my time as a stewardess.”
She says one of the most memorable people she met was Earnest Hemingway in the early 1950s.
“That was an interesting one… we were having to have an emergency landing in Phoenix, and the landing gear wouldn’t go down. He thought it was funny and was laughing,” she said.
Gloria says another interesting turn of events was on Sept. 16, 1953, when she was scheduled to be the flight attendant on a flight to Albany, New York. Her schedule was switched at the last minute when she was asked to fill in for a sick co-worker on a California flight.
“It was a good thing too, because that plane I was supposed to be on hit the Albany Airport in New York,” she said. “Everyone on the plane was killed.”
Gloria says she’s had several other interesting jobs also.
One time when she was working as a travel agent, she decided wanted to get a job with Motorola.
“I went there, and they said they’d only consider hiring me as a secretary,” she said. “…but I went to lunch with a friend and there were two men sitting next to us. They asked if we were in travel, and we said yes. They said they were from Motorola. I said, “Well, boo on Motorola’ and told them the story. It turned out it was the vice president of the company. The next week, I was hired in sales - the first woman ever to work in sales for the company. It was the hardest job I ever had. The men didn’t want me there. They did everything to get me out of there,” she said.
“I’ve been very lucky about getting the right jobs at the right time,” Gloria said. “I say if you see something you want, grab it.”
Gloria married her husband Don Noah in November 1954. The couple moved to Theodosia in 1979.
Don died Feb. 4, 2012, after the couple enjoyed 57 years of marriage.
Gloria is known as a happy and energetic personality in Theodosia today. She has been a longtime member of the Ladies at the Lake and the Mad Hatters red hat groups, a member of the Theodosia United Methodist Church for “ages,” she says, a weather watcher of KY3 for 34 years and a devoted friend.
Gloria dressed as Mother Goose and read to children in Ozark County schools for 18 years, until last year when restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic have prevented her visits. She has written and directed three Seniors of Stage plays, she directed the Hootin an Hollarin queen pageant for 13 years and she has served as a leader for the Methodist Youth Fellowship for 20 years, both in Chicago and Theodosia.
“…and one time I ran for western district commissioner - and got my butt kicked!” she said, laughing.
She teaches line dance classes every Wednesday at TUMC and occasionally at The Center in Gainesville.
Gloria say says she’s looking forward to continuing her full and happy life, and spending as much time as she can with family and friends.
Gloria’s daughter Cheryl Noah Burseth and her husband Dr. Eric Burseth live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and her son Dan Noah and wife Joyce live in Theodosia. In addition to her four granddaughters, Gloria has two grandsons, Derek and Gavin Butseth, who also live in Myrtle Beach. She says she has several great-grandchildren she loves to see too.
When asked if she had any advice to future generations, she said the best advice is to just live life to the fullest.
“You have to keep moving. Don’t sit down… just keep moving. When you stop doing that, you’re done,” she said. “Also, just be positive and have fun!”
Gloria is doing all of those things and more.
“Ninety is fun. Look out 100! Here I come,” she said.