Undaunted determination

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2001

It's an overly warm April afternoon when Delano Gillian comes into Curves for Women for her workout.

She has spent the morning on yard work before driving into town to the gym.

This in itself is commendable in a world where we look for the closest parking space to our destination while complaining about excess weight and being out of shape.

But what is even more remarkable is that this youthful lady in now in her ninth decade of life.

Mrs. Gillian is not a stranger to the Greenville community.

For over sixty years she pursued her career as a hairdresser with the last several years as owner and operator of Vanity Beauty Salon.

During all those years she not only provided hairdressing services, she also taught and trained an untold number of operators.

She in fact still will "do" some ladies if they ask and if as she says, "…they're not in a big rush cause I don't move as fast as I used to."

Mrs. Gillian's professional philosophy still serves us today.

She taught her operators that no matter who the client might be, no matter what the service costs, the only acceptable aim was to give the very best to that client.

"No task should be done halfway.

Pleasing the client was the rule of every day," said Mrs. Gillian with some sternness in her voice.

When Mrs. Gillian speaks about the years in her shop her voice softens.

"I've for so long wanted all those people, the operators and the customers, to know what they meant to me.

They were my business. Without them I would have had nothing.

They brought me such joy over the years.

One of my long time clients passed away this week, and it hurts.

They were an important part of my life, and I want them to know that."

Ms. Delano grew up on a farm outside Brantley.

As she said, "I know how to work.

My Daddy worked for all of us and he taught us what work is."

When Ms. Delano first married and came into town to live she had no life experiences other than on the farm.

Since her family purchased little other than coffee, flour and sugar, she really did not know how to shop.

She didn't know how to deal with merchants and easily fell prey to a butcher who sold her a spoiled chicken.

When she discovered the problem she was quite angry.

Her husband, however, decided he would deal with it because

"he was afraid of what I would say.

But then he said worse than I would have.

But back then women could not talk that way."

But after that she was not taken advantage of by the local merchants.

Life

"in town" was different for the Gillians.

Money was scarce and building a client base as a new hairdresser was a slow process for Ms. Delano.

She at times was discouraged and homesick for her family and familiar surroundings but "…I remembered how hard it was for Daddy to give me that beauty school course.

If he could work that hard for me, then I could make it too.

So I just kept on."

So what is it that prompts someone like Mrs. Gillian to join a gym?

As she says, "If you sit down soon you won't be able to get up.

I'll not do that.

I'd rather go "toes up" behind my hairdresser's chair doing what I've always done or doing this exercise.

I don't want to "toe up" just sitting around waiting for it."

So, if you the reader sometimes think about the state of your health in the future and wonder what you should do to insure it, remember Delano Gillian.

She has the secret so many search for…determination.

She exercises that determination in both body and spirit.

She falls into that awesome group of women who have a gentleness of speech and manner that bespeaks a Southern heritage.

But do not mistake that gentleness for softness.

For this woman has strength behind her gentleness.

She may during her lifetime have occasionally been bent by life but she has never been broken.

From her wafts the sweet essence of Southern gentility much like the fragrance from a magnolia blossom.

But underlying that essence is an undaunted will with the strength of finely forged steel.