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Grass Valley native has lived entire life here

John HartGrass Valley resident Gladys Sims holds fifth-generation family member Brooklyn Paige McKenna at the Grass Valley Convalescent Hospital.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

For a century, Gladys Sims lived in relative anonymity in a clapboard Victorian home on Pleasant Street, built during a time the narrow alley carried the horse-and-buggy set.

Sims is old enough to remember the days before the horseless carriage arrived, when her boulevard was practically Grass Valley’s epicenter.

She was born at 321 Pleasant St. 103 years ago Friday, next door to the home her son now lives in and the home she lived in for all but three years of her life.



Shortly after turning 100, Sims moved into Grass Valley Convalescent Hospital, where five generations gathered Friday to celebrate another milestone with a cake and good wishes.

Sims – born Gladys Samson – is the oldest of three children born to Fredrick and Jenny Samson who are still living. Because of her age, communication is difficult, so relatives spoke for her Friday.




They described her as a woman whose heritage as a descendant from Cornwall contributed to her feisty, independent nature.

As far as the secret to her longevity – her sisters, Esther Russell and Alice Argall, are 98 and 95 respectively and live in the Sacramento area – some of her relatives are simply perplexed.

“That’s something we don’t know,” Sims’ son Leland Baretta said.

“She’s very English – very strong-willed and is still that way today,” said Karyan Petersen, one of Sims’ six grandchildren. Sims had raised Petersen since her granddaughter was a young girl. In fact, all of her grandchildren spent at least part of their time under Sims’ care, said Petersen, who admitted to being a difficult child at times.

Petersen attributed Sims’ tough exterior to the fact that she was hard of hearing most of her life, though she enjoyed slower pursuits like crocheting and knitting.

“She was more like my mother. I was a spoiled, rotten brat,” Petersen said.

Sims was also a local volunteer for the American Red Cross during World War II. She and her first husband, Henry Beretta, opened Nob Hill Grocery on High Street in the 1920s. It’s now a house.

Sims joined the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Manzanita Parlor No. 29 just after her 18th birthday in 1918. She has been a member of the group ever since.

“What amazes me is that she’s always gone with the times. Change has never bothered her,” Petersen said. “She’s seen so much.”

“It’s a miracle,” Beretta said. “How many people you know live to be that old?”


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