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Epilogue: Dunedin philanthropist Glady Douglas, 95

Gladys Douglas
Gladys Douglas
Published Aug. 7, 2019

DUNEDIN — Gladys Douglas loved beauty in all its forms — whether it was a piece of fine French art, figurines of roosters or the quiet lake she lived by.

Publically, Mrs. Douglas was a renowned philanthropist in the Clearwater and Dunedin area, honored with plaques and buildings in her name. But her husband, Bob Hackworth, says the real Gladys was the person she was privately.

A near-unbeatable tennis player. A lover of cookbooks, which she collected and took to bed at night to read. A woman who loved the many plants and animals that wandered around her property, including the chickens and bees she kept.

She threw parties and took pride in decorating her home, with its bird-themed wallpaper and countertops dotted with trinkets and small pieces of art. She loved butterflies especially.

"Our society does not honor the things she did," Hackworth, her husband of nearly 30 years, said.

Mrs. Douglas died in her home on July 28 at 95. She is buried at the Dunedin Cemetery, just a few feet away from the edge of her property where her husband can walk out to visit.

The two met playing tennis and bonded over their love of coffee. They played doubles together as friends until Mrs. Douglas injured her knee. Hackworth insisted he take her to lunch, and he said their romance grew from there.

He admired his wife's confidence and ease with herself. He said she was nice to everyone but insisted on doing things right.

"By being comfortable with yourself it makes people around you comfortable," he said.

Mrs. Douglas moved to Florida in the 1950s after working in Washington, D.C. for the Air Force and the Navy. Once in town, she founded the Clearwater Junior Women's Club and began her service work. She was a prominent supporter of the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, the Morton Plant Mease Healthcare Foundation, the First Prysbetarian Church of Dunedin and more.

At the Fine Arts Center, Mrs. Douglas' donations helped them expand into their current building and set up the Gladys Douglas School for the Arts, said the center's president George Ann Bissett. Bissett said Mrs. Douglas never needed glory, but just asked if the students were happy and enjoying classes.

"She was the heart and soul of Dunedin in very many ways," Bissett said.

In 2013, the Morton Plant Mease Healthcare Foundation honored her with the Golden Flame of Philanthropy award. Her contributions helped establish the Gladys Douglas Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.

Hackworth said his wife liked to give because she felt it was the right thing to do. She gave privately, to friends and acquaintances, covering medical bills or helping to put people through college.

"I think she thought that was the way you behaved," he said. "If you had it you shared it."

But in their home, her plaques and awards were tucked away. The ones up on display in her kitchen, or "throne room" as her husband called it, were tennis trophies she won over the years.

Outside of her philanthropy, Mrs. Douglas was just happy to share coffee with her husband on their patio and listen to the birds.

Contact Romy Ellenbogen at rellenbogen@tampabay.com. Follow @romyellenbogen.

Gladys Douglas

Born: July 24, 1924 in Minneapolis

Died: July 28, 2019

Survived by: Husband Robert 'Bob' Hackworth, daughter Ann E. Whitley, grandchildren Wendy Smith and Tobin Skinner, and great-grandchildren Justin, Matthew and Kassandra

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