Gleasons make their mark

Published 11:45 am Saturday, January 8, 2011

By SANDRA THAMES / Community Columnist

In Alabaster the Gleasons are very well known.

As retired teachers, they stay involved in the United Methodist Church, which has been their home church since 1966.

They are both quick to take on any requests, duties or other church activities.

They have done their “Walk to Emmaus” (see Luke 14). Mary is an active member of Heartstrings, a group of women who knit shawls and lap robes for shut-ins and nursing home residents.

Fred is an expert “rug hooker.” Many of his works are displayed in their home.

Bridge, golf, exercise and traveling take up some of their down time.

Their favorite food is seafood, and the beach is their favorite destination, but their dream trip remains New Zealand.

Parents to Fred III and Mary Beth, they are a happy and likeable pair.

Fred and Mary Gleason have been attending Alabaster First United Methodist Church since 1966, and taught at local schools for many years.

The Gleasons have education in their blood. Fred’s mom was a teacher with only an emergency teaching certificate during the Depression.

Ruby Ellisor later went to the University of Alabama and Jacksonville State.

Her husband, Fred Sr., had a 40-year job at Goodyear in Gadsden, so our subject, Fred Jr., was fortunate to be raised next to the Goodyear Golf Course and lake.

A funny side note — Fred Sr. landed his job at Goodyear because they hired him to play ball for the plant and gave him a full time job.

Mary is the daughter of teachers Mabel and “Moon” Thornton. Mabel graduated from Athens College, “Moon” from Auburn University.

For many years “Moon” was the Auburn extension agent and very well known in the Shelby County area.

Mary Thornton met Fred Jr. at a Methodist get-together while both were attending the University of Montevallo.

Fred dropped a stick out of a tree above her and said “girl, fix me a hot dog.” Mary did and said “it was the first of my many burnt offerings.”

After they were married in 1963, their teaching careers began — he at Wilsonville, she at the School for the Deaf as a special needs teacher.

She had a bus in which she traveled many miles to more than 35 schools in the days before integration to provide special needs instruction.

However, most everyone will remember “Big Fred” as the government teacher at Chelsea and Mary for her many years teaching first grade at Thompson Elementary.

Mary Gleason had Tammy Taylor, the first black child at Thompson Elementary School.

Nowadays when we walk into any classroom we see white, black, Hispanic, Chinese, etc., and I personally love seeing God’s rainbow.

After 35 years of dedicated teaching, the Gleasons are retired.

The hundreds upon hundreds of kids they taught — many of whom are still right here in Alabaster — would be hard pressed to come up with unkind words about the Gleasons.

Their joint opinion on education today is that parents need to “step up to the plate” and be deeply involved with their kids in school, sports and church.

“Take charge” said Big Fred!

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached  by e–mail at