Obituary of Gladys Best
Gladys Evelyn Browning Best, age 96, passed away Thursday, March 1, 2018, in her home of 57 years. She was born January 15, 1922, in Bald Prairie, Texas to John Addison and Etta Ware Browning. She grew up in Kosse, Corsicana, and Gladewater, Texas, with her parents and younger brother John Artie Browning. Her father worked for Tidewater Oil Company and ran the family's dairy farm in Gladewater. When the dairy burned in 1939, her college plans changed and she attended Kilgore Junior College before graduating with honors from Mary Hardin Baylor College in 1943 with a degree in music. She taught music at Gladewater Elementary for one year and then earned a master's degree in religious education from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.
She was working as the Young Adult Director at First Baptist Church, Dallas when she met Carl Best, who was finishing his degree at Southwestern Seminary after serving in World War II. They shared a love of music and were married after a brief courtship on September 11, 1948. They lived in Denton, Texas, while Carl finished his master's degree in choral conducting. Their first son, John was born in Denton in 1950. Mark was born in Bryan in 1952. The family settled in Abilene in 1960, and their youngest son Calvin was born there in 1961.
Gladys taught second grade at Austin Elementary in Abilene for 24 years, authoring a Texas history book for her students entitled "Bluebonnets and Prickly Pears." During her last five years of teaching school, she commuted to Denton every week to earn a second master's degree in library science from Texas Woman's University. She then worked as a reference librarian for the Abilene Public Library until her retirement at 73 years of age.
Gladys had many passions in life, including cooking, meal planning, and discovering new recipes. She received great enjoyment from entertaining family and friends. Once, as a young wife and mother living in Bryan, she and Carl threw a dinner party for renowned choral and orchestra conductor Robert Shaw at their home with only a day's notice. They borrowed furniture and dishes to have sufficient materials for the guests. Sunday lunches and holidays were always special. Her Christmas specialty was flaming English Plum Pudding, which she made every year without fail before passing the torch to her son John and granddaughter Abigail in 2016.
Gladys also had a lifelong love of reading, which she instilled in her children and grandchildren, not to mention the thousands of children she encountered as a teacher and librarian. Her love of reading and cooking led to an impressive collection of literature and cookbooks. She volunteered at the Abilene Public Library book sale every year, which allowed her to have first pick of the books before the sale opened to the public.
She believed education was integral to success in life, and passed that belief on to her family, the majority of whom earned advanced degrees in their chosen fields of science, music, history, and the arts. She and her sons created an endowed scholarship in the study and performance of the pipe organ at Hardin-Simmons University School of Music in Carl Best's name.
Gladys loved the English language and for many years selected the words for the Abilene Literacy Council's Annual Spelling Bee. She chose the words from a large unabridged English language dictionary which remains a focal point in her living room. On a lighter note, she was known for correcting misspoken English in virtually any situation.
She was a founding member of the Freedom Sunday School class at First Baptist Church, Abilene in the late 1960s and attended faithfully as long as her health permitted. After her health declined, members of the class visited her frequently, and she appreciated their loyalty and generosity. Dr. Virginia Connelly was a very dear friend who sent cards of encouragement and made visits to Gladys' bedside during her illness.
Gladys loved to travel. She spent one summer in England as part of her graduate studies. This included setting out to find and meet 'Browning' relations while there. On another trip to England with her brother Artie and his wife Arra, she spent an afternoon (in the rain with Arra holding an umbrella over her) producing brass rubbings of "Sir Rodger of Trumpington" for her family. After producing one full length rubbing of Sir Roger, she decided it was more prudent to produce just the bust of the distinguished knight. She accompanied Dr. Charles Hundley on a tour he conducted of the Holy Lands, and her last adventurous travel was to Turkey … both of those expeditions had their own intriguing "Gladys Stories" that are shared among many friends, acquaintances, and family members.
She is survived by her sons, John Best and his wife Jeannie, Mark Best, and Calvin Best and his wife Kim. Additionally, there are 9 grandchildren: Aaron Best (wife Kelli), Darcy Best Radcliffe (husband Justin), Grace Best Robinson (husband Michael), Kathryn Best Siefker (husband Andy), Abram Best, Abigail Best, Hannah Best, Sarah Best, and Callie Best. She also had 9 great-grandchildren: Carl, Nora, Alejandro, and Daniel Best; Elaina, Nathanael, and Kyra Robinson; and Evelyn and Miles Siefker. Additionally, she considered her brother's children, Glenn, Gayle, and John Browning as her own.
Visitation hours will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, Monday, March 5, at The Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road.
Funeral services will take place at 10:00 AM Tuesday, March 6, in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church 1333 N. 3rd Street. Palmer McCown and Dr. Ron Smith will officiate. Concert organist Daryl Robinson, Chair of the Organ Department at the University of Houston, will be featured on the Shelton Organ.
A 2:00 PM graveside service for family and friends will be held at the Buffalo Gap Cemetery where Gladys will be buried next to her husband Carl, surrounded each spring by bluebonnets.
Memorial gifts may be made to the newly created Carl and Gladys Best Organ Performance Fund at First Baptist Church, Abilene.
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