An artist of animation. This is one way that many friends and family members might describe Gloria Ann Gifford, a Spring Hill resident who passed away at age 81 on Tuesday, January 9, 2024.
Gifford launched her long and auspicious arts career as a professional creator in the field of animation; playing a vital role in the illustration and design of the popular Mighty Mouse cartoon.
“Gloria started her art voyage taking art seriously from grade to high school,” read the September 2022 edition of the Nature Coast Art League newsletter. “Her first love. She landed in New Rochelle, New York, her first job as an inker and an opaquerer at Terry Tunes, the cartoon creator of Mighty Mouse and others.”
Upon moving to Spring Hill, Gifford became a graphic artist and worked at Pennysaver Publications. She also became an active member of the Nature Coast Art League, where she ultimately served as a board director and co-coordinator of the group’s Create Along event. It is the mission of NCAL to promote visual arts and support artists in Hernando County and surrounding areas.
Gloria specialized in the medium of watercolor but also painted in acrylics and oils. “Gloria Gifford was a long-time member of NCAL and she loved participating in our Create Along sessions/open studio,” said Jana Withers, media coordinator of the Nature Coast Art League. “From September 2023 to January 2024, she served on the Board of Directors as a representative of Create Along. Her passing was unexpected and our prayers go to her husband Ron, friends, and family.”
“What I will always remember personally about Gloria,” added Withers, “is her smile.”
NCAL past president and active member Linda Graves acknowledges and recalls the many contributions of Gloria Gifford to the Nature Coast Art League. “Gloria was also on the NCAL board as well as Jana (Withers),” said Graves.”Always faithful to NCAL and our Create Along group, Gloria and her husband Ron enjoyed sharing their artwork as well as a few laughs with the group.”
“We all enjoyed Gloria’s presence and are saddened by her sudden passing,” added Graves. “She will be missed by all of us who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
Dia Mentalewicz, the NCAL member, remembers Gifford’s kindness and humor. “Actually Gloria represented the Monday Morning Create Along on the NCAL board. She was a very sweet woman who loved to laugh and cared greatly about Hernando’s art community,” she said. “I did not know her for long, but I thoroughly enjoyed her company while I knew her.”
Veteran NCAL member and Create Along originator Esther Pohl honors Gifford as a true creative force and valued personal presence in the league. “Gloria was the quietest, gentle person you could ever meet,” said Pohl. “Gloria and her husband were weekly attendees of Create Along. You always saw them together. Such love.”
Gloria—who has two children from a previous marriage, Jim and Chris—met Ron when both worked at Pennysaver Publications, according to the NCAL newsletter. Celebrating a union that lasted four decades, the couple has four grandchildren and recently celebrated their first great-grandchild, Juliana.
Deemed the Lovebirds of NCAL, the Giffords painted side by side in the group—and were en route to a Create Along on Jan. 8, when Gloria fell ill.
“We had 40 great years, she was a wonderful woman,” said Ron Gifford. “Enduring love, you can’t destroy it. And Gloria, she had an immense love for others, she loved everyone, and everyone loved her.”
“Through thick and thin,” he said, “She always had that smile.”