On an unseasonably warm and sundrenched March afternoon at their home in a wooded area of Galesburg, Linda and George Chadderdon shared the poignant stories that led them to create a personal endowment to benefit OSF HealthCare St. Mary Medical Center's obstetrics and cardiology departments. With tears of gratitude for a blessed life, the couple explained how the George and Linda Chadderdon Endowment will support opportunities for continuing education for "boots on the ground" employees - nurses and technical staff members - because Linda and George "come from those types of families and want to give back."
"We'd like to create opportunities for others who follow us for generations to come as we both have benefitted from OSF St. Mary's obstetrics and cardiology services," Linda, a retired OSF obstetrics nurse, noted. "We want to be sure staff has the opportunity for continuing education. This is a requirement for giving the best and most up-to-date patient care.
The cardiology department is especially dear to both their hearts as George credits his wife and the physicians at OSF Cardiovascular Institute (formerly Heartcare Midwest) for saving his life. In 2004, he underwent an emergency five-way heart bypass surgery, and thanks to "one of the best rehab places in the country, OSF HealthCare St. Mary Medical Center, he was back to work in a very short time. Linda's experience with cardiology included a stent placement and later a pacemaker.
"Am I thankful for these professionals? "You bet I am!" George said, "This community has given everything to us! This is incredibly special because we're not from Galesburg; we're from "Forgottonia," Illinois. We're giving back to this community that has blessed us over the many years."
Rooted in Forgottonia, Illinois
Linda and George grew up as next-door neighbors in Adair, Illinois from small, hardworking families and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. George claimed he was the "village waif," and it took the town to raise him. He lost his father when he was ten, and he, his mother and two brothers lived on Social Security and Aid to Dependent Children.
"I ran the town and spent a lot of my time in the local pool hall," George said. "I was a good pool player and played the farmers in town. My town raised me. I was poor, but I didn't know it. Linda and I were both literally raised on the wrong side of the tracks."
"You see," Linda added, "railroad tracks truly divided our town. We lived on the east side of the track. Trains going through in the old days had coal-fired steam engines, and the wind would come from the west and blow the smoke, cinders, etc. onto our side of town."
Then George's life took a turn in junior high school. "In junior high, I was bussed daily from Adair to Macomb, and I was prone to motion sickness." George recalled. "I ended up living with my aunt and uncle in their 125-year-old home so I wouldn't have to take the bus. My uncle was a prominent physician in the community, my life immediately changed for the better." George worked in a Macomb pharmacy during high school and began his studies at Western Illinois University in pre-pharmacy. He later changed his major to social studies, deciding on a teaching career following graduation.
A Lifetime of Service
After completing his practice teaching in Galesburg, he was offered a full-time position at Churchill Junior High School and signed the contract. Before he could begin, one of his WIU professors offered him a unique opportunity he could not refuse - working for the Office of Economic Opportunity under President Lyndon B. Johnson. As a staff member for Southern Illinois University, George helped open one of the first Job Corps centers in the country, located outside of Morganfield Kentucky.
"The Galesburg superintendent had graciously released me from my contract and encouraged me to come back if I ever changed my mind," George said. "After a year, I decided, despite a significant reduction in salary, to return to Galesburg for a rewarding career in public education. Shortly thereafter, Linda and I were married. However, despite a teacher shortage at the time, I was drafted out of the classroom and sent to the hills of Germany with the Pershing Missile system."
Once he had served his country, George and Linda settled in Galesburg in 1969, where George returned to re-energize his classroom, and Linda continued her career in nursing. George reminisced that "As a student, I was no saint in the classroom. God had a sense of humor as He put me in the junior high classroom and sentenced me to 35 years of penance. It was a Godsend as I could relate to kids that no one else could - from both sides of the track. They loved me, and I loved them."
The OSF Mission
Linda recalled, her desire to become a nurse came while having rheumatic fever at the age of seven. After earning her nursing degree at the Julia F. Burnham School of Nursing in Champaign, she worked in Macomb. Following their 1967 marriage, the hometown sweethearts moved to Georgia, Oklahoma and Germany with the Army, and Linda worked as a nurse in Georgia and Oklahoma. When they returned to Galesburg, she intended to work at Galesburg Research Hospital, but decided instead, to choose OSF St. Mary Medical Center to continue her career. In September 1969 she started work at St. Mary. When our son George was born in 1971 (at St. Mary), I took a pregnancy leave then did private duty nursing."
"I found the work ethic and attitude when a Mission is in place, to be very rewarding," Linda explained. "I wanted to follow a Mission. The Sisters freely shared their founding story which helped me to form a greater sense of a shared Mission. Working as a nurse at OSF St. Mary wasn't just a job; I was part of a family. The Mission first drew me in, and without its Mission, OSF St. Mary is just another hospital. I found that even today OSF St. Mary has a different atmosphere that is unique. OSF and the life-affirming Mission of the Sisters truly treats patients "with the greatest care and love." It is not just a business.
From the Heart
While Linda retired from a fulfilling obstetrics nursing career spanning more than four decades, George followed his junior high career by teaching sociology at Carl Sandburg Community College, finishing with 45+ years in education. They both have opened their hearts and touched thousands of lives as servants in their professions. The Chadderdon's chose to share their legacy with the Sisters' and hope their estate gift inspires others. George and Linda receive great joy in knowing their legacy endowment will impact their community for generations to come. They also hope their generosity is an example for their son, who is also a highly accomplished professional - and their greatest legacy in life.
The Chadderdon's have a few suggestions when it comes to putting together a legacy gift:
- "Don't put it off," said George. "This has been a rewarding process for us and one that has been carefully considered."
- "Spend time with the charity you want to support to discover the areas where your gift could make the biggest impact. The OSF Foundation has caring people who can help you with some of the specifics in making a planned gift."
- "Think about what you want to accomplish, then, include those important to you who can help you make the best decisions. Our only son was involved in the whole process, he is fully onboard with what we are doing. If you put your time in preparing your estate plan, it will be a win/win for everyone."
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