Cincinnati, OH, June 19, 2017
Anyone who visits the Easterseals main office in Walnut Hills has probably spent time in the Frederic C. and Betty Shadley Conference Room. As the heart of our main offices, it has held board meetings, staff meetings, retirement parties, CPR training, and more. Those who are newer to Easterseals may wonder about the origins of the name, but for those who know our history, there would be no question as to why we would name something after a family that was practically a founding family. They are also our June Easterseals Hero.
The organization that would become Easterseals first appeared in Cincinnati in 1972 as an independent agency called Workshop for Retarded Citizens, or WRC. It was created to address the sad reality that many individuals with cognitive disabilities were isolated from the community and shut away in institutions. The organization started small, serving only a few dozen individuals, and it was located in a converted bowling alley in Cheviot. Unfortunately, the organization hit financial troubles. That’s when Frederic C. “Fritz” Shadley became involved.
He was in his early 50s at the time, and had already achieved noticeable business success with Avco Corporation. He had also recently discovered a strong calling to do something more deeply connected to social services. With his vast business experience and WRC’s need for guidance, it was a perfect match. At the request of a few acquaintances involved with WRC, in 1976 Shadley stepped into the role of Executive Director and WRC became an officially registered non-profit.
Shadley’s son, Frederic “Fritz” X. Shadley, remembers moving him from one office to the other. Shadley’s office at Avco “was just gigantic,” Fritz recalls. “He was in the corner office of the business…In Cheviot, there was just enough space to stand at the cinder block wall.”
Restructuring WRC to be financially self-sufficient was hard work, but Shadley was committed. Fritz remembers a period of a few months when his father stopped paying himself until they could achieve solvency. It worked, and soon the organization began expanding. His work attracted more high-level officers onto the board, which achieved a higher profile in the community and brought new ideas of how to continue growing.
The family couldn’t help but become involved in the work. Fritz recalls a year when his father invited three of the WRC participants to join them for Thanksgiving and then Christmas Eve dinner. It was Fritz’s job to pick them up from the institution they lived in. His memories serve as a reminder as to how far society has come:
“I remember walking into this institution, the door closed behind me, it echoed down the hall. The people that WRC served were not in the community at all. They were thrown in brick and mortar hospitals where they were left to rot, no opportunity to work in the community or better themselves at all.”
Fritz pauses, reflecting on the moment when he understood why his father was doing what he was doing. “By the end of the night I finally figure it out…it was a wonderful thing to do.”
After 11 years, Shadley stepped down as Executive Director. Then-Chair of the Board of Trustees, David C. Phillips, praised Shadley’s legacy. He described the organization’s incredible budget growth, from $100,000 to $2 million. He praised his vision, saying, “Under his leadership, services to trainees expanded both in sheer volume and into new areas, with quality always as a first priority.”
Successor Lisa FitzGibbon heaped similar praise when asked about her memories of working with him. “Today, he would be called a social entrepreneur,” she says, “a man with a passion for creating opportunities for those who are typically on the margins, so they can learn from the dignity and independence that working brings.”
Even after retiring, Shadley’s impact was far from ended. The very next year, 1988, Shadley become the Director of Planned Giving, vested with the task of building the WRC Board Restricted Reserve Fund. He held this position until 1992, at which point he was declared Board Member Emeritus.
The organization truly became a family affair. In 1993, Shadley’s son Fritz joined the Board of Trustees, on which he served for nearly eight years. Betty, Shadley’s wife of a “joyous” 57 years, was deeply and personally involved with the lives of the individuals served. When Betty passed away in January of this year, it was requested that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made to Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati.
A family affair. A passion for the self-esteem that comes with hard work. A comprehensive commitment to creating opportunities for all people. The Shadley family is truly an Easterseals Hero, and Easterseals would not be the organization it is today without them.
As Lisa FitzGibbon described, “Through [Frederic C. Shadley’s] own energy, smarts and resources, and those of his business associates, he was able to design an organization that, more than 40 years later, still embraces his core values: that every person has the right to grow and develop, and that people with disabilities deserve much more than lives in the shadows.”