Have you ever met a servant leader in real life? We are told in the Bible that we should emulate Christ, but do we actually ever see it in action out in the World? I can honestly say I have seen it firsthand. And her name was Gilda.
When I was a Freshman in high school I had a crush on a fella that was a Senior. He was the President for Key Club, and was looking for people to join for the next year. I had no idea what Key Club was, but hey when a cute guy asks if you want to be apart of something how do you say no to him? August rolls around and we have our first Key Club meeting. This is when I met Gilda. Gilda was our local Kiwanis Club sponsor. She would come periodically to meetings, and invite us to local events that happened in the area. My first event that I had signed up for was the pancake breakfast. And I loved it. I have never had that much fun serving other people breakfast.
My Junior year I decided to run for President of Key Club. I got it, and I got to spend more time with Gilda through this – luncheons, conferences out of town, meetings at school. She was a blast. Her personality and her laugh were contagious. My Senior year I stepped down as President since I played sports year round, and it was hard for me to get people involved in afternoon activities when I couldn’t even go myself. I was still present for the monthly meetings, and I never missed the pancake breakfast.
The summer after my Senior year my parents had what we like to call a “coming to Jesus” meeting. They told me I had til I turned 18 to find a job or I was getting kicked out of the house. Talk about a shot to the heart…I thought I was going to have a free ride all the way through college. I had no idea where to start so I went and talked with Gilda. Gilda worked at a tuxedo store as a manager, but she had connections all over. When I walked in I was in shorts and a t-shirt, and slightly looked like I hadn’t bathed in a week. I told her what the conversation was that I had with my parents, and she offered me a job on the spot. She also told me I had to dress up for this job.
This was a job that was a blessing from the Lord. I learned so many life lessons from her while I worked there. She taught me that handwritten thank you notes go a long way, and people appreciate them, that the customer isn’t always right, and that if you listen and try to connect with the customer you might become friends for a long time – and yes that last one happened more often then not.
Not only was she managing the tuxedo shop she had a program that she had come up with. That program was called Ambassadors and it consisted of about 20 teenage boys. She taught them how to tie a tie, how to set a table, that community service is a must, and then she also had a dance team. These guys would be able to earn points which would go to their tuxedo rental. At first you could see that the guys were all about getting tuxedos for free, and then they transitioned into loving the community service and hanging out with Gilda. Throughout the year I would go along with the community service projects because Gilda knew that I loved it. When it came time for the prom fashion shows when the boys would dance that was not my cup of tea, but Gilda had taught me how to be able to run the store by myself. She trusted me with that huge responsibility.
Throughout the years I worked on and off for her. She supported me when I started adding jobs that took away from working with her. I started working at Starbucks, and also a small company called Sport Seasons as well as helping her out occasionally. There was a lot of nights that I would be there with just her. We would talk about life, sports, you name it we talked about it. One night we sat down to take a breather from the busy day we had, and we were listening to the radio. They were doing one of those contests where you could win free tickets to a concert. The question was “if you were the opposite sex for the day, what would you do?” Her response: “I’d be gay. I like boys too much.” Somehow I talked her into calling the radio station to give them that answer because it made me laugh. She ended up winning the tickets, and we went to see Gwen Stefani.
I was there when she decided to open up her own shop, and work for herself. She worked countless hours getting everything set up. When she finally got everything in order she broke the news to her boss, and took me and another girl with her. The saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, was a motto she lived by. She would bend over backwards for you, and that made you want to bend over backwards for her as well.
It got time for me to get a “big girl” job, and Gilda knew it was coming. It was time for me to break away from her, except I didn’t. I still worked the community service events that I could, and we would get together and catch a Nashville Sounds baseball game. Bob, Gilda’s husband, was a big baseball fan and we would go catch a game together. When Dustin and I got serious, Gilda had to approve – which she did. She took Dustin in just like she took me in. We were her family.
The last time I saw Gilda was at a Nashville Sounds baseball game for her to let us know that she was retiring from the tuxedo business, but would still be doing her Ambassadors and Social Graces (she added girls a few years back to the program). She had sold to another local tuxedo business, but they were going to let her keep on doing her thing impacting teenagers lives. We had text back and forth about the baby, and also my obsession with nuns. (Side note: if you aren’t in awe by the work of a nun then there is something wrong with you…just sayin).
September 22, 2018 Gilda was driving home from an event and got hit in a head-on-collision by a young lady that had been drinking. It killed her instantly. It’s still hard to believe that she is no longer with us. Her death didn’t just impact her family, and those that she added to it, but it rocked the community as well. She was a no-judgment, always had an ear to listen to you, and if there was work to be done in the community she would be the first one there.
Here’s a few links to get a glimpse of what an impact she had on everyone she met:
I am so thankful that she came into my life 17 years ago. It will take time to heal, and fully comprehend that she is no longer with us on Earth. I am also upset that my son will never get to meet her, and have her spoil him. He will however know how great of a person she was and what an impact she left on the world.