Wilda Dailey

Dailey, Wilda June 95, died peacefully on October 4, 2012 at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago after suffering a stroke. She was surrounded by many of her loving family of Godchildren and friends. Though a single woman and only child, she had the gift of making strangers friends, and friends (and their children) family. Even in her later years she continued to add people of all ages and walks of life to the multitude of those who loved and admired her. Her dear friends and the caring staff at the Hallmark, a senior residence in Lincoln Park where she lived for the last 18 years of her life, were family too. Wilda was born in Janesville, Wisconsin on June 17, 1917. She and her parents, Keitha Struleen Wild (hence the name Wilda) and Robert Scott Dailey, lived for much of her childhood in the small hotel her grandfather owned in Beloit. Although her family later moved to Milwaukee, she continued to spend her summers at her grandfather's cottage in Lake Geneva, a place that remained dear to her for the rest of her life. Wilda graduated from Milwaukee Downer Academy and went on to Beloit College. It was there that she developed her love for the life of the mind, music, art, and the theater. She graduated in 1937 at the age of 20, Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Sigma Iota, the first in her family to receive a B.A. degree. After college, Wilda moved to Chicago. It was still depression-time, and she felt lucky to find a job at Illinois Bell for $80 a month as a service representative. During the summers, she returned to Lake Geneva to act in plays at the Belfry Players Theater (Paul Newman was another budding actor there at the time.) In 1943, Wilda joined the American Red Cross as a hospital recreation worker. Her job was to create activities and contests, entertainments and diversions for the soldiers who were patients at military hospitals. She worked mostly with the Army Air Corps and was posted to South Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas. After that, she was the life of every party she seemed to know every game, story and song there was. After the war, she went back to school at the University of Chicago in the School of Social Service Administration. She received her MA in 1948 and went to work at United Charities (now Metropolitan Family Services). She loved her work and was promoted steadily from caseworker to District Director, Director of Professional Education and Director of Training and Staff Development. She held the position of Director of Personnel at her retirement in 1982. During those years, she published several papers, led summer institutes for the U. of C. School of Social Service and traveled around the country to conduct institutes and seminars. After her retirement, Wilda established the Dailey Fund at United Charities to assist staff in continuing education. At the 50th anniversary of her class, Wilda received the Distinguished Service Citation from Beloit College. Throughout her life, Wilda traveled wherever and whenever she could and regaled her friends and family with wonderful stories of her experiences. She took many of those trips with her companion, Richard Gudeman. Together, they traveled, attended concerts and plays and enjoyed each other's company for many years. After her retirement, Wilda took the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults at the University of Chicago and volunteered at Northwestern Hospital in the surgical waiting room. She continued to travel the world as much as she could. She also returned to theater to act in and produce some of the plays at Church of Our Saviour, her home church. Wilda was an active member of C.O.S. serving on many committees and the altar guild as well as writing a history of the congregation. The congregation, children as well as adults, became an important part of her ever-expanding family. As her spiritual life deepened, she joined the Order of Julian of Norwich as an associate. She frequently attended retreats for quiet contemplation. Wilda was an inspiration to many people for her indomitable spirit in the face of the challenges of aging and for her love of life. Never one to shy away from giving her opinion, she freely shared her knowledge and ideas. Up to her last few days, she read avidly, kept up with politics and the news, attended concerts, movies, and plays, visited museums, dressed beautifully, and met friends for meals. She even took computer classes and learned to use email and Amazon (she was an inveterate shopper). She managed all her own financial and business affairs until the very end. Wilda was predeceased by her companion of 29 years, Richard Gudeman. She is survived by one cousin, Jean Bethe of Milwaukee and 17 Godchildren, their children and grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 20 at 2 P.M. at Church of Our Saviour, 530 W. Fullerton Parkway, Chicago. Reception to follow. Donations in her name may be made to the Church of Our Saviour Capital Fund.

Published in Chicago Sun-Times on Oct. 14, 2012