The idea of becoming a centenarian doesn’t frighten Patricia Gebs. She has lived through the Great Depression and survived the brunt of the Blitz at the beginning of World War II.
But despite the tragedies that have followed her for decades, Gebs feels blessed.
“God has been very good to me,” she says.
Gebs will celebrate her 100th birthday on All Hallows’ Eve. She plans to commemorate the milestone by hosting a celebration at The Terraces of San Joaquin Gardens — her home of five years.
Born on Oct. 31, 1917, to James “Jim” and Alice Egan in London, England, Gebs says “we didn’t celebrate Halloween in England.”
She attended a private Roman Catholic institute before joining her mother as a hairdresser. In 1938, she married her first husband, Fredrick Willis. Gebs was hospitalized for 30 days as their daughter, Anne, was born in 1940.
But unfortunately, three years later, tragedy struck when Willis was killed in a plane crash. Gebs says he was part of a crew that was placing minefields in Germany and Holland.
Gebs met her second husband, Lewis Gebs, while working as a hairdresser in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. The native of New Orleans served in the United States Air Force.
Gebs and Anne boarded the SS America to New York in 1946. With the help of the American Red Cross, they took a train to meet Lewis in Los Angeles.
“It was very difficult to find a place to live,” she recalls.
Their luck changed when they were invited to be contestants on Art Linkletter’s radio show, “People Are Funny.”
The prize: a mobile home that retailed for $8,000. They lived in L.A. for about six months when Gebs learned that she was pregnant — prompting her and Anne to return to England.
Shortly after Gebs gave birth to a son, Paul Raymond, they moved to Southern California.
“I felt that my future was in the U.S.,” Gebs says.
She worked at Gottschalks and Sears during her career in the retail industry. Lewis passed away from complications of emphysema in 1981. Eight years later, Gebs moved to a community at Marks and Herndon avenues in northwest Fresno. She moved to TSJG in 2012.
Today, Gebs stays active by being a member of clubs and organizations in Fresno.
In addition to England and the U.S., Gebs traveled to Germany, Switzerland, China, Australia and New Zealand. She recently took a four-week vacation with her son and daughter-in-law to England.
“I’ve had a very exciting life,” Gebs says. “I’ve made lots and lots of friends along the way.”
Happy birthday, Patricia!
3:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28
The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens, Tolladay Theater, 5555 N. Fresno St., Fresno