I remember the first time I met Gloria Bradford. I think most people do. A tiny Latina woman, but when she walked into a room she was hard to miss. Every time I close my eyes, I see two things: her big curly her and her big smile.
For several years Gloria and a small group of community partners came together for the annual Martin Luther King Jr Day Celebration, most recently held on the Western New Mexico University campus. Each year, we would look at each other and think of how time went by so fast and wonder how we were going to manage to put on another celebration so soon.
Gloria made it happen. You see, the rest of us in the world tend to fall under our own pessimism. We shrug our shoulders and think small. We just want to mark a tally on a checklist to say that we accomplished a task.
Not Gloria. At every meeting, she brought new ideas. Not the kind of thoughts you hear from CEOs and corporate leaders. Ideas that focused on people and purposes. She always thought of the forgotten, and the Mining District was something of a special focus in her heart. We always listened because each time she spoke we knew that there was meaning and emotion behind what she was saying.
For me, Gloria was more than just a fellow member on a committee. She was a mother like figure. She showered everyone with “mijitos” and other terms of affection. She always said, “that’s so beautiful.” She found something precious in everything she looked at and thought about — including people. Gloria was one of those ladies that when you bumped into the grocery store, you knew you would be chatting with for a while.
It wasn’t just her stature that caused her to look up to everyone, she actually wanted to look up to everyone. She viewed us all as God’s children. So, it was fitting that just three months ago, Gloria was inducted into the Martin Luther King Hall of Fame for her many contributions to our community and for her gift of service to others.
Before Gloria, there was no Martin Luther King celebration in our community. She, and a few others, came together to make it happen. It was important to her, and now it’s important to us.
From running the local senior volunteer program, to being a force of goodwill and compassion to others, Gloria was the kind of person that you think about when you think of local heroes. The heartbeat of small communities.
I think of Gloria and I smile. That is probably her most significant legacy. Now, our dear friend has left us to be with the Lord that she loved so much, and I’m going to miss her. She was only 53 years old.
There is only one fitting thing to do in her honor, and that is to carry on her legacy. We will continue to have Martin Luther King celebrations, and we will continue to think of others as she did. To truly carry on her legacy, we need to smile more, look up to others more, and always see the positive in life.
Those are the gifts that Gloria has left us and that we can pass on to others.
Thank you, Gloria.