Gloria Gail Thatcher DeMent
May 21, 1925 – September 6, 2022
Born in Inglewood, California, Gloria spent most of her growing up years living in Beverly Hills. As a child she was a member of the Meglin Kiddies, a troupe which often performed in movies dancing and acting in background scenes. A favorite memory was being in the birthday party scene of the Littlest Rebel starring Shirley Temple. Gloria was also a stand-in double in the film Rainbow on the River for Marilyn Knowldin, a child star in the 1930’s. In later years Marilyn & Gloria put on a number of presentations sharing what it was like to be a child in the movies at that time.
After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, she attended UCLA. During WWII, she volunteered as a nurse’s aide and with the USO at the Hollywood Canteen where troops came to be entertained with food and music. She said they might as well have been supervised by a group of nuns in a convent, they were so closely watched to be certain everyone behaved with propriety!
During her senior year in high school, she visited Lake Arrowhead with friends whose family had rented a cabin. While there, they met some local boys including her future husband Stoney Lester DeMent, Jr. As she told the story, it wasn’t love at first sight. They aggravated each other as much as possible and paid attention to everyone except each other. Gloria said Stoney (then called Lester) was very interested in her friend Betty who was “stacked”. Stoney even threw Gloria’s shoes into the lake at one point.
A couple of years later, when Stoney was on leave from the Army before he shipped out, he called Gloria and asked to take her to dinner. Gloria told her mother that she would never consider going out with him. Her mother, however, was very patriotic and insisted it was her duty to go. Gloria came home with stars in her eyes and never looked back. They were engaged by mail soon afterward and married in 1946 when Stoney returned from the war. Stoney passed away in April 2015 just days before their 70th wedding anniversary. Theirs was truly a love story and a partnership in the work they performed together for decades in the field of education, Dyslexia and learning disabilities.
Moving from Beverly Hills to the tiny town of Blue Jay in the San Bernardino Mountains was a huge change which Gloria seemingly took to with enthusiasm. In a letter to her parents in the winter of 1951 she talked about the snow being so deep that you could only see outside from the higher windows. The electricity was off and not expected to come back on for some days and the phone lines were down, but they had heat from the gas furnace, hot water and could cook. Stephen, the oldest, would be 4 in March, Kathleen, the middle child, would be 2 in April and Jane, the youngest, was a newborn. Her letter was a litany of positives including how close the market was, so she could walk there since the roads were closed and how great Stoney was at shoveling and taking care of everything so they could get in and out of the house. She closed her letter with the statement that she’d better close as she had diapers to dunk and Stoney’s wet clothes to hang over the floor furnace to dry.
When the children had all started going to school, Gloria obtained the first of many years of Substitute Teaching Certificates. She spent the next 10 years substitute teaching from kindergarten through high school on a part-time basis. Driving up and down “the hill” she attended first Valley College and later Cal State San Bernardino to complete the college education she had begun at UCLA so many years before and graduated in their first graduation class in 1967 the same year Kathleen graduated from high school. Smiling, she told Kathleen not to make a big deal out of her graduation since she wanted the limelight all for herself! Kathleen remembers being very impressed that such an old person could go back to school at her age and graduate. Gloria was 42 at the time. Time does have a way of putting things into perspective, doesn’t it?
With her teaching credential in hand, Gloria had to find a teaching position off the mountain because Stoney was Principal of Rim of the World High School. As an administrator in the school district, his spouse could not teach in the district. So every day she drove from Blue Jay to Rialto to teach 2nd grade and she loved it. In the winter, she kept a packed suitcase in the trunk of her car in case snow closed the roads during the day. In later years, she and Stoney had a travel trailer parked in a Rialto trailer park for her use during winter weather. She loved what she called “her babies” and was an inventive and capable teacher. She was a Master Teacher for six CSCSU student teachers over the years.
When her first grandchild was born with developmental disabilities Gloria decided to go back to school enrolling in a Master’s Degree program in the School of Education at the University of San Diego. She said she wanted to learn what she could about special educational needs and practices. After graduating in 1976, she was able to accept a position as a Resource Specialist at Lake Arrowhead Elementary School, as Stoney had decided to step down from being Principal and do Counseling and Curriculum Development until he retired.
Gloria’s introduction to Dyslexia in her Master’s classes was an important turning point in her and Stoney’s lives. They realized that this much misunderstood learning disability was present in their family. Stoney struggled in school as a boy, as did Stephen and Jane. All 3 were dyslexic and all three had felt that perhaps they were stupid because they didn’t learn many things like others did.
As Gloria and Stoney became more knowledgeable about the different teaching methods that Dyslexic’s need and the fact that all Dyslexics have normal to high intelligence levels, they felt the need to share this information to help these individuals realize their gifts and reach their full potential and to educate teachers and administrators to implement programs in their schools. This work became their passion and over the years they touched countless lives all over the United States, and in a number of other countries as well. Even in her 90’s, Gloria continued to touch others who have Dyslexia with her knowledge and caring. She got excited when she was told that someone was Dyslexic and wanted to share with them how gifted they were and provide them with information on how their brains were good brains, but formed differently, and that is why they learn differently so that they could learn to value themselves and move forward in their lives in a more positive way.
Gloria & Stoney started the Inland Empire Branch of the Orton Dyslexia Society and co-founded the 5 branch Orton Southern California Consortium. Later, they were invited to become the volunteer Literacy Directors for the Dyslexia Foundation, a position they held until they retired well into their 80’s. When research showed that children who were slow to talk were slow to learn how to read, Stoney & Gloria started the Language Literacy Link to help train teachers and parents how to recognize the signs and to take steps to help young children long before they enter kindergarten giving them time to develop so they would not be far behind when starting school.
Gloria was honored a number of times for her work. In 1995 she was the first recipient of the Arthur E. Hughes Award for Life Achievement for the School of Education at USD. She’s been honored in a number of ways by the Dyslexia Foundation, and has been inducted into the San Diego Literacy Council Hall of Fame. But in the end, her love of teaching was her most important career achievement. In her mid-80’s she so missed her “babies” that she went back to substitute teaching in the Escondido Elementary District, teaching reading during summer school, doing testing, and just enjoying being around young minds who needed some help and direction to someday become the best they can be.
Finally, Gloria was a woman of deep faith. She trusted and loved her Lord and walked with Him all her life. She was ill for a very long time and wondered sometimes if God had forgotten her, but then she would always say that she knew how much He loved her. Gloria was a loving mother, a good friend to many, and an example of how to live one’s life to the fullest, giving all that you can to do good and make a difference to others. She loved her many friends dearly and considered them to be part of her extended family. Loving others was one of her greatest gifts.
She is greatly loved and missed by her family and friends. She is preceded in death by her son Stephen and husband Stoney Lester and is survived by her sister Marilyn Scott, daughters Kathleen (Dwight) Stratton and Jane Gorsky, foster son Ray Welch, and daughter-in-law Monica de Ment, 6 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and 8 great-great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers donations in her memory may be made to:
The Dyslexia Foundation
1 Clinton Place - New Bedford, MA 02740
500 La Terraza Blvd., Suite 130
Escondido, CA 92025