Chances are if you have ever been to a library, nursing home, any kind of holiday celebration or parade in the Twin County area you have seen Katherine Jadlowe.
You might not recognize her, but you’ve seen her. Jadlowe is the one dressed as the Queen of Hearts, or the Easter Bunny or the leprechaun, or even a hot dog. She is also the one bringing smiles of delight to children and adults of all ages.
Jadlowe has amassed 76 costumes over the years, which gives her something for every occasion and holiday.
“My first costume was a gorilla suit that my son inherited. After that I got a Red Devil costume and just built it up from there. Some of my costumes date back to the 1960s,” said Jadlowe.
Obviously, all those costumes total up to a tidy sum, despite the fact that Jadlowe makes some of them herself.
While most of Jadlowe’s costumes cost about $50, the Easter Bunny costume cost around $500 and the Queen of Hearts and devil outfits came in at about $200 each. Even the cheaper costumes don’t include all the needed accessories, such as wigs, jewelry, shoes and makeup.
“I have every color wig possible and a lot of colorful tights and silly looking shoes,” she said.
Throw in the fact that she always has plenty of Tootsie Pops to hand out – over 6,000 last year alone – and some might wonder if they could afford to hire Jadlowe for an event. They need not worry, because she never charges for her appearances.
“I love doing what I do. It makes my heart happy to see people smile. If I can do something to cheer somebody up, I will,” she said.
Jadlowe said strict parents are behind her love of dressing up in order to bring happiness to others.
“My dad was very, very strict. As a child, my two brothers and I weren’t allowed to trick-or-treat,” said Jadlowe, who grew up in New Bedford, Mass. “If he was home, he would take us to the movie. One year, he took us to the movie and when we got to the car it had been soaped from top to bottom. That was about the only thing funny that happened with my dad.”
“I always thought I’m not going to do that to my kids,” continued Jadlowe, who stuck to that vow as an adult. “I wanted my kids to have fun because I didn’t. So, when they were little, I dressed up with them and have been doing it ever since.”
Entertaining children is Jadlowe’s first love, as evidenced by her appearance as a Dalmatian dog during the four parades – Hillsville, Galax, Independence and Fries – on the 4th of July this year.
Because so many children wanted their photo taken with Jadlowe, she wasn’t able to catch up to any of the fire trucks in the Hillsville parade and ended up walking all the way to the VFW.
“The Hillsville parade was the longest, I thought I’d never reach the VFW,” she said. “But the children are who it’s all about. I don’t care who it is, I’ll stop and taken a photo with the kids.”
Jadlowe also gets great satisfaction by going to nursing homes, especially the Waddell Nursing Home in Galax, which is close to her home.
“Waddell Nursing Home gives me a schedule of events and I saw they were having wheelchair races for the residents, so I dressed up as Danica Patrick,” said Jadlowe. “The interaction you have with the people in nursing homes is great, they’re so friendly. When you see a big smile on their faces, that is what it is all about.”
The Twin County area almost lost Jadlowe last year, when she and her husband, Dale, decided to move back to New Bedford to be closer to their seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. However, the old saying “You can never go home again” proved appropriate for Jadlowe’s seven-month experience.
“They wouldn’t let me do anything. I wanted to dress up, but my son, Kyle, would say my wife does all that,” said Jadlowe. “I just couldn’t take it anymore. I finally decided I would have to leave or I was going to die there.”
Since returning, Jadlowe, 75, has been busy as ever and has no plans to hang up her costumes just yet.
“I have a lot more fun as an adult than I did as a kid,” she said. “I don’t take any medications; I stay active and eat very healthy. But even if I had to push a walker, I’d still do it.”
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter @MikeEHowlett