Fuqua looks forward to retirement

Published 9:50 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2005

By By LYDIA GRIMES Features Reporter
It's only a few more days before Gladys Fuqua retires. She has been working at the Escambia County Probate office for the past 43 years and is finally calling it a day.
Fuqua is a native of this area and attended North Brewton Junior High and W.S. Neal High School, She has lived here all her life except for a short period when her husband was in the military during the sixties. She grew up north of Brewton and graduated in 1962. This was during the time when many National Guard units were being activated because of the building of the Berlin Wall and the volatile situation in Europe. Joe Fuqua was one of those who was put on active duty and the two of them decided to get married just before she graduated from high school.
The couple lived at Fort Benning until his guard unit was de-activated that summer and they came home to Brewton.
Everybody used to buy vehicle tags in October and that made for a busy season. Lines would be long and work was very steady throughout the season.
That was the beginning of her many years of working there. When she started, Judge Reo Kirkland was in office. She remained through the terms of Judge Martha Kirkland, Judge Devon Wiggins and now Judge Rachel Agerton.
She has worked in many areas of the probate office. Wherever she was needed was where she worked. She sold tags, hunting licenses, marriage licenses and many other things. Today each employee is more specialized in what they do. Her job has evolved in the last 15 years. She now records wills, conservatories, name changes, adoptions, legitimations and many other things. She does all the tax deeds that come in and stamps all papers of people running for an elected office.
Even recording materials have changed quite a bit over the years. A person who goes into the vault room at the probate office will find any number of public records. From marriage, deeds, wills, mortgages and other things can be found there, and they are indeed public records. Any individual has the right to come into that office and look at documents. The biggest difference over the years has been the change from records in books to records that have been computerized.
When a person has to be committed to an institution, Fuqua takes care of all the paperwork and bills that go to the lawyers and mental health department.
And of course, Fuqua and the rest of the employees in the office are on hand to assist someone who doesn't know how to go about researching records that are available. Even though there are many attorneys and legal aides who do research on land records and other things in the vault, Fuqua and her other co-workers are on hand to assist in any way they can.
Some records in the office go back to the late 1800s and marriage records are on file back to 1896. This is the only place where one can find some of these older records so it is very important to keep them on file and repair them when they get so worn.
Fuqua is on her third try to retire. She has tried a couple of times in the past but as she said, "something always happened."
Her husband, Joe, is retired from Smurfit-Stone. They have two children. Sonya, who has a degree in clinical psychology, works for Southwest Mental Health and is married to Dennis Hadaway, who is the assistant principle at W.S. Neal Middle School.
Glenn has a degree in criminal justice. He and his wife live in Panama City, Fla. The two children have blessed the Fuquas with three grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them.
Fuqua is planning to do some traveling and just enjoying life in her retirement.