On October 7, 2012 at age 89, Gladys L. Hughes was named second runner-up in the first-ever Ms. Veteran America competition in Washington, DC. The competition, put on by the organization Final Salute Inc., drew contestants from around the country and around the world to help end homelessness among women veterans and their children. Women veterans make up one of the fastest growing homeless populations in the United States.
At the competition, Gladys displayed such talent and such presence, the organizers couldn’t just let her go home. So they recruited her as a judge. She’s 95 now – and just finished her sixth season of judging the contest.
The work to end homelessness among women veterans is just one example of Gladys’s dedication to helping others. She was in college when the US entered WWII, so she quit school to enlist in the US Coast Guard where she worked as medic. After the war she was able to complete her degrees, start a family and start a career in education. For thirty years, she taught high school speech, drama and English. For nearly 20 of those years, she taught at East Jefferson High School.
Besides being a WWII veteran and an educator, Gladys is an author, a playwright and a director – all qualities that make her such a good judge for the competition. But more important is her natural way of working with people, inspiring them, helping them be their best. She says “you can do anything you want to do anytime you want to do it – if you want to bad enough.” And she’s using her lifetime of experience to do some of the most important work she’s ever done: helping lift women veterans out of homelessness.
Gladys L. Hughes … Peoples Health Champion