By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Liberty Bell Shadwick turns 90 — on the Fourth of July


Liberty Bell Shadwick poses in 2006 with four generations of her family.

Monday, June 30, 2008/Ventura County Star

For Liberty Bell Shadwick of Oxnard, being born on the Fourth of July has always sparked a good conversation — even more so now that she's turning 90 on Friday.

"Most folks don't live to be 90 years old," said the retired Point Mugu civil service employee, who admits that she has no secrets for her longevity. "I didn't think I'd make it this far. I have good genes. My older sister lived to be 96, and my aunt lived to be 95."

Her granddaughter, Heather Overholt of Oxnard, said, "She is the only person that I know with the name Liberty Bell born on the Fourth of July."

The greatest lesson that Overholt said she has learned from her grandma also reflects this holiday. "I think that's where I got my independence from," she said.

Liberty was almost born in Independence, Mo. Just before her birth in 1918, her parents, Jeff and Edella Shadwick, moved to Vancouver, Wash.

When she was born, World War I was ending. Her parents wanted to name her Liberty, but a nurse suggested they add Bell because of the patriotic occasion.

After her birth, the family moved back to Independence.

Being born on a holiday runs in the family: Liberty's daughter was born on St. Patrick's Day, her granddaughter on Valentine's Day and her grandson on New Year's Day.

Left show business at age 21

Over the years, she worked as a professional dancer and singer, traveling through North America. "What I enjoyed most about my life was being an entertainer," said the great-grandmother of four, who joined a road show at 15.

"I had a singing and dancing comedy routine," she said. "Many a time, the chorus girls had to hide me from the truant officer so I could stay in the show."

She left show business at age 21 and settled in Los Angeles, where she met her husband while waiting tables. The man, named Jake Gallemore — 21 years her senior — told her that she looked like Joan Blondell, an Oscar-nominated actress known for her roles as a sexy blonde.

Gallemore promised Liberty's mother that he'd put her daughter in the finest clothing and Cadillacs, and he did. "Their marriage lasted 26 years," Overholt said.

The couple, who had a son, a daughter and four grandchildren, were involved with various businesses, and everything they owned was under the name Liberty Bell.

While living in Ventura in the 1940s, the couple opened Liberty Bell Dinner House, a restaurant and cocktail lounge on the Rincon Parkway, and later opened Liberty Bell's Cafe in Oxnard.

After 10 years in Ventura, they moved back to Los Angeles, where Liberty was left a widow in March 1965, after which she returned to Ventura County.

Although she never remarried, she did become involved with another man, Norman Grant, an engineer. "After a 20-plus-year relationship with my grandma, he died in 1998," Overholt said.

The past president of American Legion Auxiliary No. 339 in Ventura, Liberty Bell now lives with her daughter, granddaughter and grandson in Oxnard and remains an active member of Gold Star Wives, an organization for widows of deceased veterans, and American Legion Post No. 48 in Oxnard.

She also is a member of the charitable group Order of the Eastern Star, where she will receive her 50-year pin this year.

Michael Sompura of Scottsdale, Ariz., praised his grandmother for experiencing life with an attitude of compassion while always wearing a smile.

"She is special for the values and morals that she has instilled in her family," Sompura said. "She lives each day to the fullest while stopping to smell the roses."

Embraces family and friends

His grandmother embraces family and friends with an open heart and loves everyone equally, he added.

She is a solid role model in the lives of her grandchildren, said her daughter, Bonny Gallemore Wright of Oxnard.

The biggest life lesson she learned from her mom is that "you must try something at least once to see if you like it or not, no matter what it is," Wright said.

"Also, do what you want to do, not what other people want you to do," she said. "I planned a trip to Puerto Rico. ... At first she didn't want me to go. Later, she told me she was glad that I was going, because there were things she had wanted to do in her life but never did.

"This is probably that love for life' and living life to the fullest' that has sustained her for all of these years."

Liberty Bell agrees that she has tried to stay active.

"My advice for those who want to live a long full life like myself is to live your life to the fullest every day and be kind to all you meet because you never know how long you're going to be here with your family and friends."

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