James Wilson Gladden, IV was born in Alexandria, Virginia on February 20, 1934. Born in the Alexandria Hospital formerly located on Duke Street in Alexandria.
He went by many names to many people, to his immediate family, he was Wilson, to most of his professional associates and friends he was Jim, and to many of the staff members at Goodwin House, he was simply Mr.Happy. And happy he was much of the time as long as he got to eat on time.
He was the oldest of 4 children born to James W Gladden III and Charlotte Inez Gladden. He spent his childhood in the Del Ray area of Alexandria on Raymond Avenue. He helped to raise his 3 siblings while his mother worked and his father was hospitalized for Schizophrenia at Western State Hospital in Staunton VA. In speaking with his sister recently, she raved about what a good big brother he was to her. His only surviving sister, Joanne Gladden Francis now lives in Hopedale MA. He had already said goodbye to his brother David Gladden and his baby sister Lois Gladden. Jim graduated from George Washington High School in 1955.
Also at a young age, Jim overcame both Tuberculosis and Polio. It was during the first illness that he felt a calling from God which would help pave the way for the remainder of his days.
Jim met and married Mary Luzenia Michael in 1958 (She passed away in 1983). While married Jim finished college to obtain his Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry from George Washington University in Washington DC. He followed that up with some post graduate studies for Pre-Med but opted to stick with chemistry as his chosen career. Later in life he also studied at the Virginia Theological Seminary's Lay School. His working career was spent working at Fort Belvoir Virginia for the Army Corp of Engineers from 1961 to 1994. Specializing in a variety of fields including off-set lithograph, xerography and ink jet printing and mapping. Among his biggest career accomplishments was a US Patent for the Process for making phase holograms (US Patent# 4187106). What that means in layman's terms is still beyond the understanding of those family members closest to him. But he helped to make maps for our troops on the ground. He was honored that his work contributed to our US Military. He had a big head filled with a big brain full of knowledge. His big brain came second only to his big heart!
It was his big heart that led him & his wife to adopt his two daughters, Mary Angela Pickering in 1965 and Julia Ann Dempsey in 1969. They were the apples of his eye. He dedicated his life to loving and supporting them.
In 1974 he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This was a challenging disease that would ultimately change his life in many ways, but luckily he was able to manage his symptoms with medication and continued working and providing for his family. It would have a profound effect on his goals later in life.
After retirement from his government job, he pursued his heart's interests which included his church work, and his community service work. He was a lifelong member of First Christian Church of Alexandria. He served on the City of Alexandria's Community services board. He also became more involved in leadership roles with his Masonic Lodge (Henry Knoxfield Lodge of Alexandria and Fort Hunt Day Lodge of Alexandria). He even worked part-time as a tour guide at the Masonic Temple in Alexandria Virginia. He loved sharing his knowledge of the temple's history with the tourists. But, his main goal from that point forward was to help educate the community about mental health issues. At his church, he created a Sunday School class that welcomed intellectually handicapped adults from a local halfway house. He did this because he wanted those individuals to have the opportunity to worship like everyone else. He had to stop his involvement in the class a few years ago, but the program still exists and has enriched the lives of many. In 2002 he also traveled to leadership meetings in California with the National Schizophrenia Foundation to obtain the necessary tools to organize a local chapter of Schizophrenics Anonymous.
He later created a non-profit organization called The Alexandria Mental Health Services Chest. A non-profit whose goal was to educate the public on mental health as well as Financially assist Alexandria High School graduates with mental health issues, to live independently after graduation by helping them get jobs and training they would need to support themselves.
In 2010 , he moved into Goodwin House of Alexandria where he would welcome a new church into his life as well as a new love. He met a lovely woman, Nell Logan, who made his final years before dementia took over, a delightful time for him. They both shared a devout love of God. Both were stricken with mental illness in their own lives, so they had a special understanding of each other's quirks. You might say it was a match made in Heaven. Nell Passed away in June 2017.
In his free time, Jim loved spending time with his family. He was never blessed with grandchildren and had to make the most of his granddog and grandcat. He loved the ocean air at Nags Head NC, and he loved to eat out on special occasions at the Fish Market in Old Town Alexandria, or crabs with his daughter Angela in Maryland, but especially loved Sunday dinners at his daughter Julie's house watching football and golf with his son-in-law, Albert Dempsey and sneaking as many cookies or candies as he could get away with.
If anyone is interested in honoring him we are asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to any of the organizations below which were all very important in his life.
(Please see below a link for the streaming of Funeral Service)
1) National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
4301 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22203
2) The Goodwin House Foundation
Memo: Fellowship Fund
4800 Fillmore Ave
Alexandria, VA 22311
3) First Christian Church of Alexandria
Memo: Gladden Memorial Fund
2723 King St,
Alexandria, VA 22302.
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