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Paynesville Press - April 13, 2005

Gladys Deadrick, advocate for seniors

By Michael Jacobson

gladysdeadrickWhen Diane King thinks of her aunt, Gladys Deadrick, "I'm always reminded of her license plate, 'Who Cares.' I thought it meant to her, 'If I can't help, who will?' She tried to make a difference by lending a hand or a voice where it was needed," said King. "As a tribute to her memory, may we all be inspired and motivated to give more of ourselves to our communities."

Deadrick was an advocate for seniors, especially for those in need, who devoted much of her life to helping others. "She was busy, busy," said Mary Winther, a good friend of Deadrick who knew her on and off for 60 years. "Always on the go. She was always doing something for someone."

Deadrick was born in January 1908 in rural Paynesville. She graduated from Paynesville High School in 1925 and attended the St. Cloud Teacher's College and Calhoun Rasmussen College in Minneapolis.

She made her living as a cook, owning and operating several restaurants, as well as working as the dining room manager at a hotel and as a cook at a hospital, both in Minneapolis. She lived in Paynesville, Minneapolis, Fargo, and Chicago.

She and her first husband, William Bejeau, even operated a steak house in Paynesville (located where Calvary Baptist Church stands now) and they ran a resort on Rice Lake. Gladys also worked at Mike's Eat Shop on James Street in downtown Paynesville.

In 1948, she was elected to a three-year term on the village council. She was the first female councilor, though Esther Brick served as the village treasurer for many years.

When Gladys Bejeau, as she was know then, got the most votes in a three-way race for the village council that year, the Press predicted: "Her intense interest in any thing she undertakes will be a valuable asset to the community when she takes up her office duties this coming January."

Divorced from her first husband, who died in 1969, Gladys married Ken Deadrick in 1970 and moved to his farm in Union Grove Township.

Around 1974, she established a home-delivered meals program for the Paynesville area. This program - delivering nutritious meals to seniors and other shut-ins - is commonly called "Meals on Wheels," but Deadrick organized a local program without any help from a national organization.

It was the only home-delivered meals program in the state paid for by community donations. "We are self-supporting and don't receive any government funding," she once told the Press.

Deadrick established the home-delivered meal program "to keep people in their homes," explained Winther. Meals were made by the hospital and by the Good Samaritan Care Center (now Washburne Court) and a driver delivered them as far away as Lake Henry and St. Martin.

Deadrick organized the whole program: raising funds to pay mileage for the drivers, taking calls and organizing the daily delivery schedule, recruiting drivers, promoting the program, etc. "She cared about people in need. She cared about a lot of people," said Winther, who described her friend as caring, good-hearted, and fun.

On holidays Deadrick - who moved to Paynesville in 1983 after Ken died - would host dinners for other widows, said Winther. "Anybody who didn't have a place to go she had them over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner," explained Winther.

Deadrick was also involved in a number of senior groups and advocated for seniors. She helped organize the Central Minnesota Senior Citizen Federation as well as the state organization and served on both board of directors.

She also helped establish the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, served on the advisory board to the Good Samaritan, and was a member of the hospital auxiliary and of Grace United Methodist Church.

fishing Winther remembers her support for 700 Stearns Place, a controversial project at the hospital in the 1980s. Her friend would have supported the Senior Center (now the Paynesville Area Center) because "she wanted something for seniors," said Winther.

Gladys Deadrick (right) posed with her friend Mary Winther (left) and their catch of sunnies on a trip up north in 1990. Winther described her late friend as caring, good-hearted, and fun.

"She fought for what she believed in, shared her opinions freely, and yet ended any debate on a cordial note," said Jeff Bertram. "She was always advocating for the underdog, the person who didn't know where to go with a particular program."

Among her awards were being grand marshal of the Town and Country Days parade in 1987 and a Remarkable People Award from the Senior Expo in 1990.

She died in February 1991 at her home in Paynesville.

After her death, the home-delivered meals program was organized into the Gladys Deadrick Fund, which continued to deliver meals to shut-ins. Catholic Charities, which operates Senior Dining at the Paynesville Area Center, continues to offer home-delivered meals in the Paynesville area, and the Gladys Deadrick Fund was recently disbanded with proceeds going to continue that mission.

"People in Paynesville, especially seniors, are better off because of Gladys Deadrick. Her #1 issue was always helping the Paynesville area and especially the seniors," said Bertram.

"She was an inspiration to many, including me, and I hope that she is smiling today knowing 14 years after her death, and many years after her Press column, "Who Cares," she knows we do!"

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