Title: Betty Chesley
Post by: C H U C K on September 03, 2011, 01:42:36 AM
Thank you Betty. We love you! Sweetie, I wish I could give you a great big hug right now. It's really hard to get down on life when you know people like you exist. You restore faith in human kind.
" Betty Chesley, who died this week at age 99, was instrumental in the creation of the YMCA’s Roller Sport Park. She also donated to Minnesota State University, the hospital and the Freedom School for teens addicted to drugs or alcohol."
September 2, 2011
A Life Remembered: Chesley’s legacy will be on wheels
By Robb Murray Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — If you’re downtrodden, oppressed or an underdog, you lost a formidable advocate this week.
Betty Chesley — whose generosity made it possible for scores of skateboard-riding kids to have a safe place to ride, for dozens of students to attend Minnesota State University on scholarship, or for diabetes patients to have access to dialysis units — died this week. She was 99.
Chesley, though slight of frame, had a towering personality. She had many opinions, her son said, and rarely shied away from voicing them. Up until a year ago, she was still driving around town. Up until a few years ago, she was still driving around San Diego, where she wintered.
Lately her health had deteriorated. Pneumonia caught up with her, and during the past few weeks she’d become weak. But even though she was weak, she maintained a sense of pride that defined her personality.
During an interview with the Free Press, after a reporter photographed her for a piece on her family’s latest donation to the Chesley Roller Sport Park, she asked the reporter if she could examine the images on the digital camera. She wanted to make sure she looked her best, she’d said.
Her philanthropy was substantial, but no group benefited quite as publicly from Chesley’s generosity as the Mankato Area Family YMCA.
Y CEO John Kind said the loss of Chesley, whom he visited regularly when she was in town, will be tough.
“She meant a lot to the Y,” Kind said, “and she meant a lot to the kids in the community.”
In that article from a few weeks ago, Chesley herself talked about why she chose to back the idea of a skateboard park.
While in California, she said, she noticed a lot of kids riding skateboards at a skate park, and wondered whether the idea could work in Mankato.
Chesley’s son, Mankato attorney Robert Chesley, said his mother noticed that the community’s youth football players and basketball players were well taken care of with organizations and equipment. But the kids riding the skateboards, who may have been just as athletic and deserving, were virtually forgotten.
Because of this, she got behind the idea of building the skateboard park. And she stayed committed.
“She really looked after her investment,” Kind recalled. “We’d get calls from her saying there’s weeds that need to be pulled and the lawn needs to be mowed.”
And she didn’t stop there. She’s given thousands to MSU for scholarships, Robert Chesley said, which included donations to MSU’s gerontology program and the College of Business. She gave to the hospital’s dialysis units. And she was a major donor to the Freedom School for chemically dependent high school students. Robert Chesley said she’d come into contact all her life with people who were alcoholics or children of alcoholics.
It should be noted that Chesley’s life wasn’t always flush with cash.
She grew up during the Great Depression and attended Mankato Teachers College. And when she first married, Robert Chesley said, mom and dad didn’t have much.
“But they didn’t feel bad,” her son said, “because nobody else did either. Everybody was in the same boat. And when they were able, they wanted to give back to the community.”
Coming out of rough times, Robert Chesley said, may have fostered in his mother a desire to help those less fortunate. And that may be why she spent much of her time funding the causes she funded. The skate park, scholarships, the Freedom School — all share a common underdog theme. Chesley was a friend to them all.
Robert Chesley said his mother, before she died, wanted to see her youngest granddaughter, Mariah, graduate high school. That granddaughter gave her plenty to watch. Mariah Chesley was a standout swimmer and golfer for Mankato West High School. She graduated this past spring.
And that’s when Betty Chesley’s health, her son said, worsened to a point where she would not recover."
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