SEBRING - When Lois Posey Gibbons was a 38-year-old single mother and waitress, she discovered she could use her talent as a baker to support her three children.
Now, almost 50 years later, the Sebring resident looks back at the bakery empire she built through hard work and determination and can be proud that her "Original Cheesecake Posé" is still considered one of Baltimore's most famous desserts.
In the early '60s, the former nursing cadet and photographer's model was the wife of policeman Donald Posey, a mother and a waitress working multiple jobs at the Eager House, the Chesapeake, Harvey House, Town House and Love's Restaurants in the Baltimore area.
One day she took a homemade cheesecake into her co-workers at Love's.
Her boss asked for the recipe. The dessert became a favorite on the menu, and she realized she had a winner.
The creamy textured four pound cheesecake that launched Mrs. Posé in 1962 was created as a blend of two recipes given to her by a Vietnamese seamstress and her sister-in-law.
The business was named "Original Cheesecake Posé," a shortened version of her name, Posey, with a French flair.
After her divorce, the cakes that she baked in her home and delivered in a station wagon to local restaurants became her main source of income, and she pushed to slowly build a reputation.
"I basically got cheesecake introduced to Baltimore," she said of her initial canvassing of restaurant and grocery stores with samples for them to try.
Raised by a cousin after her mother's death from appendicitis when Gibbons was only 18 months old, she was determined to make sure her children, Kathy, Susan and Kevin, had a good life.
She believes in the importance of home and family.
"I only slept for three hours at a time," she said of setting her alarm to put in a new set of cakes every few hours in ovens in her kitchen and basement bakery so she could fill all the orders pouring in.
"You can be awfully strong when you have children depending on you," said Gibbons in a Sunday Sun article, but luck was on her side.
Author Robert Paterson included the Posé story in his book "Life Begins at Forty." She also received publicity when a New York Mirror writer did a write-up on her after tasting her cheesecake at the old Chesapeake Restaurant, and she was interviewed on a segment of the "Evening Magazine" show.
One of her most prestigious customers, Alfred Vanderbilt II would order 12 of her cheesecakes and have them flown in for parties at his 530-acre Sagamore Farm.
With a loan from the wealthy horseman, and encouraged by her stepfather Claude Roche, she rented a building and opened a commercial bakery.
"I paid $50 a week until I paid him back," she said of Vanderbilt's loan.
In Pimlico, she met her current husband, Joseph Gibbons, a former accountant with Black and Decker who had opened a car care company near her bakery.
"Our first date was to the Preakness horse race," she said of the day that finished with dinner and her famous dessert. It was the first time Joe had ever had cheesecake, and he liked it.
"Then, I couldn't get rid of him, so I married him in 1971," said Gibbons with a smile.
In 1977, the bakery moved to its current location, 4319 Old Milford Mill Road, Baltimore.
Joseph took over as manager of the company that grew to have over $1 million in yearly sales with distributors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington D.C.
When the couple retired and moved to Florida approximately 23 years ago, her daughter, Susan Posey Harris, took over the business which now offers 150 gourmet cakes, brownies, and muffins to restaurants, delicatessens and grocery stores.
An avid golfer until two years ago when she had a knee replacement, Gibbons now play cards with friends, paints acrylics sceneries and animals and enjoys life with her husband and their shih-tzus, Charlie and Maggie.
"It was all worth it," remarked Gibbons of her dream and struggles to methodically build a successful business. "You only live one life.you might as well go for the gold."