Women's History Week: Queens' "Gritty Granny" Keeps Personal Mission Going
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A Queens grandmother known as "gritty granny" made headlines three years ago when she fought off a knife wielding burglar, but it wasn't her first time in the spotlight. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
An upbeat spirit and bravery is how many New Yorkers came to know Vivian Squires, the tough as nails grandmother who the press called "gritty granny" after she fought off a home intruder who stabbed her repeatedly just months before her 87th birthday.
"I decided not to die and started fighting," Squires once said.
But Squires made headlines long before the 2009 incident after spending more than 50 years helping women and families in need. Known for her sewing skills, Squires opened a charm and modeling school in the early 1950's where her daughter and other young girls participated in fashion shows. During that time she also became a correction officer at the Old Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village where she changed the inmates' uniforms and started a fashion design program.
"I decided to change the way the women dressed so I cut up all the material and put them in the latest fashions. Luckily, instead of being reprimanded the commissioner liked what I did," says Squires.
Squires held fashion shows in the women's prison and later on Rikers Island and the inmates even made costumes for a popular Broadway show at the time. In 1973, she retired and started the Co-Workers Development Corporation, a clothing and manufacturing business to help former inmates - mostly women - reintegrate into society.
Squires later became a teacher, then volunteer and coach for Weight Watchers. She was working on a project to keep kids out of gangs when she was attacked.
Squires said the attack left her physically and emotionally scarred but it did not break her spirit. Now she is ready to get back to what she does best which is helping other people.
"I ain't done yet," says Squires.
Squires is looking to become a motivational speaker for young people and women in the corrections department.
The department honored her contributions after the stabbing that left her with 60 stitches and 35 staples.
As for the man who attacker her, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison.