“They told me I have cancer. Stage four. I’m gonna die.”
Sabrina Ivory stood in awe as Mary Gaston, her dear friend and coworker, told her the frank truth about her breast cancer.
“Well, don’t be sad about it. That’s just how it is,” said Gaston.
Sunday, Feb. 9 marks the one-year anniversary of Gaston’s passing. The 78-year-old Gaston was a member of the JCU cleaning staff for 22 years. Several members of the JCU community paid their respects to the Gaston family by attending her funeral service held on Feb. 14, 2013.
A year later, Ivory goes about her job emptying the trash from the second floor of Millor and smiles.
“Ms. Mary said whatever was on her mind,” Ivory said. “She didn’t hold back. She couldn’t have told me any other way.”
Gaston lived life according to her own rules. Gaston stayed in Cleveland even after her family, including her two sons, Johnny and Randy, moved to Atlanta. She loved Cleveland and surrounded herself with good friends here.
“She was my lunch date and my shopping buddy,” said Ivory. “I even made dinner for her because she was so busy with her two jobs.”
Despite the cheerful tone in her voice, Ivory’s eyes were heavy with grief. Gaston died less than two months after revealing her sickness to family and coworkers.
Despite her terminal prognosis, she continued to work for as long as she could, both at JCU and Tower City Center. Zima McGlothin, who worked with Gaston and Ivory cleaning the dorms during the summer, said Gaston was in good spirits until the very end.
“I visited her the week before she passed,” McGlothin said. “She sat up straight. She was well rested. She was drinking a cold Pepsi, her favorite.”
To those at JCU who knew Gaston, she was “Ms. Mary”, the woman who cleaned the bathrooms in the Dolan Center for Science and Technology. But if you took away the oversized blue GCA Services Group shirt, the uniform baseball cap and the cleaning cart that stood as tall as she did, you’d be met with Gaston, a dignified friend, mother and grandmother.
“Ms. Mary never had a hair out of place,” McGlothin said. “She loved pink and she loved getting dolled up. She thought a woman should always wear earrings and have her nails done.”
Ivory enjoyed reminiscing about the fun she had with Gaston.
“She took me on my first shopping trip to New York City,” Ivory said. “We had so much fun we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. She also loved to go on cruises. We were planning a cruise trip when she passed away.”
GCA employees continue to feel the void of Gaston’s motherly presence.
“She is missed everyday,” McGlothin said. “It’s definitely hard. There are so many memories of her around campus.”